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EEOC Clarifies COVID-19 May Be a Disability Under ADA

By Alex Gonzalez - Jan 12, 2022 10:39:13 AM - 4 MINS READ

EEOC updates its COVID-19 Technical Assistance Guide and provides examples of how a diagnosed individual may be considered to have a disability

On December 14, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided another update to its COVID-19 Technical Assistance Guide, What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws. The new addition, Section N, provides guidance as to whether COVID-19 is a disability under the ADA and/or Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act. The update provides examples illustrating how an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 or a post-COVID condition may be considered to have a disability under the laws covered by EEOC.

The guidance indicates that a person with COVID-19 can be either: (1) a person with an actual disability under the ADA, (2) a person who has a record of having a disability under the ADA, or (3) a person who is regarded by the employer as having a disability under the ADA. In all of these situations, the ADA protects such an individual, applicant or employee, from adverse actions.

According to the EEOC press release, the key information in the new guidance includes:

      • In some cases, an applicant’s or employee’s COVID-19 may cause impairments that are themselves disabilities under the ADA, regardless of whether the initial case of COVID-19 itself constituted an actual disability.
      • An applicant or employee whose COVID-19 results in mild symptoms that resolve in a few weeks—with no other consequences—will not have an ADA disability that could make someone eligible to receive a reasonable accommodation.
      • Applicants or employees with disabilities are not automatically entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA. They are entitled to a reasonable accommodation when their disability requires it, and the accommodation is not an undue hardship for the employer. But, employers can choose to do more than the ADA requires.
      • An employer risks violating the ADA if it relies on myths, fears, or stereotypes about a condition and prevents an employee’s return to work once the employee is no longer infectious and, therefore, medically able to return without posing a direct threat to others.

OutSolve OFCCP Insights

OutSolve’s Take

Dealing with COVID-19 and the ADA or Rehabilitation Act can be a slippery slope. Employers would be wise to apply the standard ADA rules when considering whether a person with COVID-19 is a person with a disability. Under ADA rules, employers have the right to seek medical documentation when applicants or employees seek a reasonable accommodation under the ADA based on a COVID-19 diagnosis. However, employers want to ensure that the request for a doctor’s note should be applied evenly among COVID-19 cases and other disability-related situations.

If you have any questions, please contact your OutSolve Consultant or contact OutSolve at 888-414-2410 or by email at info@outsolve.com.

Alex Gonzalez

Alex Gonzalez recently joined OutSolve as VP of Product and Market Development. Alex will be working with the team to expand OutSolve’s offerings for clients and bring greater opportunities for growth and development to OutSolve. He has spent more than 30 years leading hundreds of clients in various industries in preparing affirmative action programs and diversity programs, implementing software solutions, and managing strategic product roadmaps.

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