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Your Rights
Disabilities and COVID-19

Although many people with COVID-19 get better within weeks, some people continue to experience symptoms that can last months after first being infected, or may have new or recurring symptoms at a later time. This can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if the initial illness was mild. People with this condition are sometimes called “long-haulers.”  This condition is known as “long COVID” and it  can be a disability under Title II (state and local government) and Title III (public accommodations) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 , and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

1. Can COVID-19 be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504, and Section 1557?

Yes, a person with Long COVID has a disability if the person’s condition or any of its symptoms is a “physical or mental” impairment that “substantially limits” one or more major life activities. A physical impairment includes any physiological disorder or condition affecting one or more body systems (e.g., the neurological, respiratory, cardiovascular, and circulatory systems). A mental impairment includes any mental or psychological disorder, such as an emotional or mental illness. Long affecting one or more body systems (e.g., lung, heart, or kidney damage).

“Major life activities” include a wide range of activities (e.g., caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, communicating, interacting with others, and working). The term also includes the operation of a major bodily function (e.g., the immune system, cardiovascular, and neurological systems)., circulatory systems.

The term “substantially limits” is construed broadly under these laws. The impairment does not need to prevent or significantly restrict an individual from performing a major life activity, and the limitations do not need to be severe, permanent, or long-term. Whether an individual with long COVID is substantially limited in a major bodily function or other major life activity is determined without the benefit of any medication, treatment, or other measures used by the individual to lessen or compensate for symptoms.

See Guidance on “Long COVID” as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557 for more information and examples of major life activities and when COVID-19 may substantially limit an individual’s major life activities.

2. Is Long COVID always a disability?
No. An individualized assessment is necessary to determine whether a person’s long COVID condition or any of its symptoms substantially limits a major life activity. The CDC and health experts are working to better understand long COVID. See Guidance on “Long COVID” as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557 for more information.
3. What protections do I have from my employer’s inquiries related to COVID-19 and my disability?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) restricts when and how much medical information an employer may obtain from any applicant or employee, requires employers to keep confidential any medical information they learn about any applicant or employee, and limits how much information they can obtain during hiring and onboarding. See What You Should Know About COVID and the ADA for more information.
4. Am I entitled to a job accommodation if I have long COVID-19?
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. A person with Long COVID has a disability if the person’s condition or any of its symptoms is a “physical or mental” impairment that “substantially limits” one or more major life activities. See the Department of Labor’s Workers With Long Covid-19 May Be Entitled to Accommodations for more information.
5. Where can I find job opportunities for people with disabilities?
Flexible Work for People with Disabilities and Special Needs | FlexJobs publishes job opportunities for remote work, including opportunities for people with disabilities.
6. When should I disclose a disability in a job interview?
Deciding when to disclose a disability can be a difficult choice for a person with a disability who is job hunting. If you have a hidden disability such as a learning disability or a psychiatric impairment, when and how to disclose your condition can be a real dilemma. See the Job Accommodation Network article Disability Disclosure and Interviewing Techniques for Persons with Disabilities for more information.

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