Attorney Louise Ing, a partner with Dentons law firm, joins producer/host Coralie Chun Matayoshi to discuss Long Covid and when it might be considered a disability under federal or state law.
What is Long Covid and what are the symptoms?
Although many people with COVID get better within weeks, some continue to experience symptoms that can last for months or even longer. A recent UH Economic Research Organization (UHERO) report found that about 30% of those surveyed say they are suffering from long COVID.
According to the CDC, people with long COVID have a range of new or ongoing symptoms that can last weeks or months and can worsen with physical or mental activity. Common symptoms include tiredness or fatigue, difficulty thinking or concentrating (“brain fog”), shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, headache, dizziness on standing, heart palpitations, chest pains, cough, joint or muscle pain, depression or anxiety, fever, loss of taste or smell, and organ damage.
When is Long Covid considered a disability protected by federal or state law?
According to the EEOC, determining whether COVID may be considered a “disability” under the law involves a fact-intensive determination of whether COVID symptoms, long-term effects, or how it exacerbated symptoms of another condition, “substantially limit one or more major life activity.” So an individual suffering, even intermittently, from certain symptoms relating to long COVID can be considered to be “disabled” under the law. A mental or psychological disorder, such as an emotional or mental illness, that “substantially limits one or more major life activity” can also be considered a disability.
What rights do people whose long COVID qualifies as a disability have under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
People whose long COVID qualifies as a disability are entitled to the same protections from discrimination as any other person with a disability under the ADA. Under the ADA, employers must offer accommodations to workers with disabilities unless doing so presents an undue burden.
Tips for employers in dealing with employees with long COVID
- Ongoing and evolving discussions with long Covid employees regarding accommodations.
- Documentation of all discussions regarding an employee’s requests for accommodation and why you can or cannot grant them.
- Regular check-in meetings to assess possible changes in symptoms and accommodations.
- Before denying an accommodation or taking adverse action against the employee, make sure there are legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for taking such action.
“What’s the Law” is sponsored by Hosoda Law & Just Well Law, representing families who lived on the Navy water line on O’ahu between May and November 2021, seeking accountability and financial recovery from landlords and the United States. To learn more visit well.law/redhill.