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Workers With Long COVID-19: You May Be Entitled to Workplace Accommodations

A boss and employee, both women, sit at a table and discuss accommodations.

Some people who have had COVID-19 continue to experience ongoing symptoms for months afterward, known as Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome or long COVID-19 – and it has caused a wide variety of limitations.

If you have long COVID-19, you might have difficulty working in the same way you did before and may be entitled to workplace accommodations so you can do your job. What’s important to know is that even if you don’t think of yourself as having a disability, you may meet the Americans with Disabilities Act definition.

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that people with long COVID-19 have about their rights under the ADA:

1.    How do I know if I’m entitled to workplace accommodations?

If you need an accommodation, the best thing to do is ask for it. Under the ADA, you are entitled to accommodations if you meet the definition of an individual with a disability and are qualified for the job with the reasonable accommodation. An individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. Whether a particular condition is a disability as defined by the ADA requires a case-by-case determination. But employers are free to provide accommodations even if someone doesn’t meet the definition of disability – and they must provide accommodations if they do meet it, absent undue hardship. The Job Accommodation Network has guidance to help you determine if you meet the ADA definition of disability.

2.    How do I ask for an accommodation?

There is no official method or form to request an accommodation under the ADA as long as you let your employer know that you’re asking for something because of a medical condition. For more information, see how to request and negotiate a reasonable accommodation, and this sample accommodation form letter.

3.    What kind of accommodations can I ask for?

There is no exhaustive list but here are some general categories:

  • providing or modifying equipment or devices
  • part-time or modified work schedules
  • reassignment to a vacant position
  • adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials or policies

What employers don’t have to do:

  • remove essential job functions
  • lower production standards
  • provide personal need items such as hearing aids and wheelchairs
  • provide any accommodation that creates an undue hardship
  • provide an employee's preferred accommodation as long as the employer provides an effective accommodation

If you’re not sure whether the accommodation you need is something your employer must consider, you could mention your idea to your employer but offer to consider other options.

4.    What type of information can my employer request when I ask for an accommodation?

They can:

They cannot:

  • Ask for documentation that is unrelated to determining the existence of your disability and the necessity for an accommodation.
  • Ask you about other medical conditions you might have or request your complete medical records.

5.    Can I get an accommodation if I only need it temporarily or if my limitations change over time?

Yes. If you are a qualified individual with a disability, your employer must consider providing accommodations for any limitations you have related to your disability, even if temporary or episodic, for when they are needed.

6.    What can I do if my employer won’t provide the accommodations I need?

If your employer denied your request because your medical information did not show that you have a disability, you can provide additional information. Or if your employer decided that the accommodation you requested would pose an undue hardship, you can suggest other options.

If you don’t think your employer has a valid reason to deny your request, or the employer won’t tell you why it was denied, you can appeal the decision by going up the chain of command, filing a grievance with your union if you have one, or filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or your state enforcing agency.

7.    Where can I get more information about the ADA and accommodations?

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy has a webpage with resources regarding COVID-19 and long COVID-19 for workers, employers, youth and policymakers. And the ODEP-funded Job Accommodation Network is a free resource to help you or your employer brainstorm accommodation ideas. You can always contact us to discuss your specific situation.

Linda Carter Batiste is a principal consultant/legislative specialist at the Job Accommodation Network. This post was adapted from the JAN blog. Read the original here.

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