What every U.S. Employer needs to know about Long Covid
Today is the 32nd birthday of the American’s with Disabilities Act, and we are starting to quantify the effects of COVID-19, and post-viral illness on the American working class.
On July 26, 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed and the United State’s created the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities.
Millions of American’s rely on the ADA to:
- Prohibit disability discrimination by State and local governments
- Provide standards for access to places of public accommodation
- Protect people with disabilities from discrimination
- Ensure equal access to health care, education, social services, transportation, and telecommunications
One in five COVID-19 survivors aged 18–64 years experienced at least one incident condition that might be attributable to previous COVID-19.From the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
Devastating Health & Economic Impacts
Last Monday, the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis heard from experts and impacted American’s testimony during a hybrid hearing on “Understanding and Addressing Long COVID and Its Health and Economic Consequences.” Testimonies echoed the concerns of the Long Covid community, while providing the Federal Government with ways they can help American’s manage Long Covid.
Highlights on Disability & Workplace Accommodations for Long Covid
We know that Long Covid causes a wide-range of health consequences; some affected more mildly while still be able to work with accommodations. Others are forced to reduce their schedule due to new physical and cognitive limitations.
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 Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis
Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, MD described the experience of her severely affected patients: “[Long Covid patients] tell me that their post-COVID fatigue is 100-times worse than their cancer fatigue ever was. I have treated many nurses and physicians. Some have not been able to return to the operating room or to the frontline or the patient bedside. Marathon runners who cannot even walk a mile. A young mother who can’t run after her children without her heart rate going to 180 and getting short of breath.” This group of Long Haulers are no longer able to work and struggle with approval for their Social Security Disability benefits.
Significant long-term disability with multisystem involvement has now been seen in a growing population of patients who have survived COVID-19.Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, MD, 7/19/2022 Testimony before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis
Long Covid Families would like to thank all of the speakers & advocates involved with the subcommittee hearing. The research brought to light both great data points, and action items for the government & employers, as well as the general public. (video below)
Long Covid Accommodation Awareness Cover Photo for LinkedIn
If you are a Long Hauler looking to raise awareness for impact of long covid & workplace accommodations needed, you may download the LinkedIn cover image below.
Protect your employees
Provide your workforces with accurate information on how COVID-19 is spread, and try to limit their exposure:
- Improve ventilation and air filtration
- Mandatory masking during periods high community spread
- Incentives that encourage employees to stay home when they are sick
- Policies that encourage rest to recover
These measures are especially crucial for part-time workers in high traffic areas like grocery & retail. You can find more on scientific based mitigation strategies and informational handouts from People’s CDC.
Accommodate those experiencing illness
According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, Long Covid can be a disability under:
- Titles II (state and local government) and III (public accommodations) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)
- Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Section 1557)
The civil rights protections and responsibilities of these federal laws apply even during emergencies. They cannot be waived.
Long Haulers accommodations
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. 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:
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.
- 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 that will help your employees maintain both their performance and their health – 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.