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EEOC Updates Guidance on When COVID-19 Can Count as a Protected Disability

    Client Alerts
  • December 17, 2021

On December 14, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued updates to its technical assistance for employers dealing with employees who are recovering from COVID-19 infections. The EEOC previously stated that long-haul COVID-19 symptoms can rise to the level of protected disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the new assistance expands this explanation.

First, the EEOC clarified that post-COVID-19 symptoms can constitute ADA disabilities, even if the initial infection and recovery do not meet that standard. Next, mild COVID-19 symptoms with no lingering consequences are not ADA disabilities, and employers are not required to accommodate such cases. Third, employees with long-haul COVID-19 effects may be entitled to reasonable accommodation under the ADA, as long as it does not result in an undue hardship on the business. Finally, an employer may violate the ADA if, based on myths, fear, or stereotypes, it discriminates against a person who has recovered from COVID-19, including by refusing to hire or reinstate that person.

Human resources professionals should make sure that managers are aware of and are following these important requirements.