Work Accommodations & Disability

Work Accommodations for Disabilities
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Employment Impacts

Making ends meet and while trying to navigate illness can be a significant source of stress. Here we will discuss options for Long Hauler’s in the workforce.

Around 16 million working-age Americans likely have long Covid today. Of those, anywhere from 25 to 65% may have a reduced ability to work — 2.4% of the entire US employed population.

Katie Bach, 7/19/2022 Testimony before the White House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis

Long Covid can be Disabling

Long Covid can considered a legal disability under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557 if it substantially limits one or more major life activities & major bodily function, such as the functions of the immune system, cardiovascular system, neurological system, circulatory system, or the operation of an organ.

– Caring for oneself
– Performing manual tasks
– Seeing
– Hearing
– Eating
– Sleeping
– Walking
– Standing and sitting
– Reaching, lifting, bending
– Speaking
– Breathing
– Learning
– Reading
– Concentrating & thinking
– Writing, communicating, and / or interacting with others

Guidance on “Long COVID” as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers who have 15 or more employees are usually required to provide reasonable accommodations, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship. Some state and local laws may require that employers with fewer employees provide reasonable accommodations.

There are options to make life easier while healing after COVID, or experiencing disability due to chronic illness.

1. Work Accommodations

2. Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

3. Short Term & Long Term Disability

4. Social Security

Work Place Accommodations

A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment, assistance, or changes to a position, job, or workplace that will enable an individual with a disability to perform their job duties.

People whose Long Covid symptoms qualify as a disability are entitled to full and equal opportunities to participate in and enjoy all aspects of civic and commercial life.  Accommodations may include specialized equipment, modifications to the work environment or adjustments to work schedules or responsibilities.

Employers will sometimes need to make changes to the way that they operate to accommodate a person’s Long Covid related limitations. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission provides guidance for reasonable accommodations for example:

Information Communications

Employers must ensure that employees with disabilities have access to information that is provided to other similarly-situated employees without disabilities, regardless of whether they need it to perform their jobs. For example, some Long Haulers have difficulty with headaches or eye strain, similar to after a concussion, so they may wish to have communications accessible via voice. Many struggle to retain information due to cognitive impairment or “brain fog.” They may request notes be taken during meetings.

Job Restructuring

  • Altering when and/or how a function, essential or marginal, is performed.
    • Many with Long Covid have difficulty standing and may need to perform duties seated.
    • Allowing flexible schedules allows employees to attend doctors appointments.
    • Telecommute or work from home can give employees back the time they used to commute which is essential when battling fatigue and working to conserve energy.
  • Reallocating or redistributing marginal job functions that an employee is unable to perform because of a disability.


Permitting the use of accrued paid leave, or unpaid leave, is a form of reasonable accommodation when necessitated by an employee’s disability. This is often necessary for Long Haulers due to fluctuating health and frequent doctor’s appointments. An employer cannot penalize an employee for work missed during leave taken as a reasonable accommodation.

This list is not comprehensive, though just a starting point for understanding. For more details on reasonable accommodations – please see the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.

As with anything legal, please consult an attorney to receive more information for your specific issue.

Accommodation Ideas

Concentration Problems:

  • Provide written instructions when possible
  • Prioritize assignments & provide more structure
  • Allow a self-pace workload
  • Allow periodic rest periods to reorient
  • Provide memory aids, such as schedulers or organizers
  • Minimize distractions
  • Reduce stress


  • Reduce or eliminate stress
  • Schedule periodic rest breaks away from the classroom where the student can lay flat
  • Allow a flexible schedule & flexible use of absences
  • Implement ergonomic workstation design
  • Allow remote work
  • Provide a scooter or other mobility aid if walking cannot be reduced


  • Allow water and electrolyte drinks at all times
  • Allow bathroom use without dismissal
  • Reduce or eliminate loud noises and fluorescent lights
  • Allow sun glasses or headphones
  • Allow blood pressure or heart monitor devices
  • Schedule periodic rest breaks away from the classroom where the student can lay flat
  • Allow a flexible schedule & flexible use of absences
  • Allow remote work
  • Provide a scooter or other mobility aid

Temperature Sensitivity:

  • Modify temperature & maintain the ventilation system
  • Modify dress code
  • Use fan/air-conditioner or heater at the workstation & redirect vents
  • Allow a flexible schedule & flexible use of absences during extremely hot or cold weather
  • Provide a workspace with separate temperature control

Sleep Disorder:

  • Allow frequent breaks
  • Allow remote work

Depression & Anxiety:

  • Reduce distractions in work environment
  • Provide to-do lists & written instructions
  • Remind student of important deadlines & meetings
  • Allow time off for counseling
  • Provide clear expectations of responsibilities & consequences
  • Provide sensitivity training to all students
  • Allow breaks to use stress management techniques
  • Develop strategies to deal with problems before they arise
  • Provide information on counseling assistance programs

Family and Medical Leave (FMLA)

FMLA can be used protect your position at work (for qualifying employees at. qualifying work places.) This is an unpaid leave of absence and for those who qualify, this leave can be used for:

  • Care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
  • Any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty

More information can be found with the US Department of Labor. Your work’s HR department should be able to provide you will more information.

Short Term & Long Term Disability

Many employers offer short-term disability (STD) plans that replace all or part of income, usually 60-75% of the employee’s base pay, due to temporary disabilities for about 26 weeks. Long-term disability (LTD) plans are available to permanently disabled individuals who may continue through the individual’s normal retirement date or until the employee becomes eligible for Social Security disability benefits, but many some policies provide more limited income replacement benefits for up to 24 or 36 months.

Disability insurance plans do not provide job protection. The requirements to hold an employee’s job and reinstate the employee after a disability leave will generally be determined by an employer’s internal policies and practices, as well as by state and federal laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The definition of disability varies according to employer sponsored disability plans, but some may mirror the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition that states that “an individual is considered to have a ‘disability’ if s/he has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.”

The purpose of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is to protect the interests of employee benefit plan participants and their beneficiaries. It requires plan sponsors, usually employers to provide plan information to participants and establishes standards of conduct for plan managers and other fiduciaries.

The HR Department of the employer will be able to provide all plan information and company policies. As with anything legal, please consult an attorney to receive more information for your specific issue.

Social Security

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs aid people with disabilities.

SSDI determination is based on disability and work credit that requires at least 5 to 10 years before eligibility and pays benefits to you and certain family members if you are “insured.” SSI determination is based on age/disability and limited income and resources, pays benefits to adults and children with disabilities who have limited income and resources, and in most states, an SSI recipient will automatically qualify for health care coverage through Medicaid.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Medicaid is a state and federal program that provides health coverage for those with have a very low income.

Medicare is a public health insurance program for Americans who are 65+ or under 65 and have a disability, no matter your income.

They can work together to provide you with health coverage and lower your costs. While these two programs are different, the medical requirements are the same. If you meet the non-medical requirements, monthly benefits are paid if you have a medical condition expected to last at least one year or result in death. More information on Medicare

Supplemental Security Income
SSI may provide monthly payments to adults and children with a disability or blindness who qualify. You may be eligible to receive SSI payments if you are already receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or retirement benefits.

SSI can take up to a year and sometimes more to get through all the steps. It is advised to file as soon as the disability seems to be permanent. As with anything legal, please consult an attorney to receive more information for your specific issue.