EEOC Clarifies When COVID-19 May Be Considered A Disability

  • by AGD Washington Advocacy Representative
  • Jan 6, 2022

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its COVID-19 technical assistance, adding a new section to clarify when COVID-19 may be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act.

The update provides examples illustrating how an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 or a post-COVID condition could be considered to have a disability under the laws the EEOC enforces. 

Key information from the update 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. 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. 

On July 26, 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued Guidance on ‘Long COVID’ as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557. The DOJ/HHS Guidance focuses solely on long COVID. The new EEOC technical assistance focuses more broadly on COVID-19 and employment.

Impact on General Dentistry: As healthcare professionals providing direct person-to-person services, dentists and their staff face high risk of COVID-19 exposure. AGD will continue to monitor guidance and regulations pertaining to COVID-19 disability and employment law.