What If I Can’t Work Because Of Long Term Covid-19 Illness?

Employment attorney in Pensacola, FL
Travis P. Lampert Partner

If you are a worker suffering long-term effects of COVID-19, then you may be entitled to protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or other Federal civil rights laws, including additional time off to seek medical treatment or to recover.

The ADA protects workers with a qualifying disability, i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, from workplace discrimination. Specifically, the ADA prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee because of the employee’s disability or perceived disability if the employee can still perform the essential functions of the job. Additionally, under the ADA, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for those suffering from a qualifying disability. However, ordinarily, the ADA does not cover short-term illness such as a cold, flu, or broken bones. 

At this point in the Coronavirus pandemic, we know that COVID-19 is a serious disease that has the potential to kill, but we also understand that the vast majority of those who contract COVID-19 recover in a period of weeks, like a cold, or the flu. As the pandemic has lingered on, we are now seeing a significant number of people suffering from long-term COVID-19, or COVID-19 symptoms that persist for 4 or more weeks. Common symptoms of long term COVID-19 include

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Fever

Recently, the Biden Administration issued guidance explaining that long-term COVID-19 can be a disability under the ADA and other Federal civil rights laws. Under this new guidance, workers gain some protections for their job if they must miss work due to long-term COVID-19 symptoms because employers may be prohibited from disciplining such employees under the ADA. Additionally, employers may be obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to long-term COVID-19 sufferers, which could include additional time off to seek medical treatment or for recovery, additional breaks, reduction in exertion levels, etc.

However, long-term COVID-19 does not always qualify as a disability. An individualized assessment is necessary to determine whether your long-term COVID-19 condition or its symptoms substantially limits a major life activity, and gives you protection under the ADA, or other federal civil rights laws. If you have been discriminated against at work because you suffer from long-term COVID-19, contact your Pensacola Employment Law Attorneys at the Law Office of J.J. Talbott for a case evaluation.