As many Americans recover from the COVID-19 virus, some continue to experience symptoms long after the virus has left their bodies. Many of them COVID-19 long distance drivers including tiredness or exhaustion, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties, concentration and thought disorders, palpitations, chest pain. Even if the COVID disease has been mild, a person infected with it can suffer from COVID for a long time.
On the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Biden administration, including the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Health (HHS), new instructions published regarding those with long-haul COVID. The ADA is a civil rights law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination. This policy highlights that individuals with prolonged COVID illnesses may experience disability-level symptoms, which are covered by federal anti-discrimination laws, including the ADA.
During the announcement, President Biden said, “We are bringing agencies together to ensure that Americans with long-term Covid who have a disability have access to rights and resources under the Disability Act.”
The DOJ has announced that COVID can be considered a disability if several conditions are met. To be considered a disability, individuals with long-term COVID must demonstrate that “the person’s condition or one of their symptoms is a ‘physical or mental’ impairment that ‘severely restricts’ one or more important life activities.”
The Justice Department also announced that under these new guidelines, COVID is far from always a disability. An “individualized assessment is necessary to determine whether a person’s long-term COVID condition or any of their symptoms are limiting their abilities”.
The White House highlighted the guidelines of the Ministry of Labor, released earlier this month, clarifies how employers must accommodate workers diagnosed with disability due to long-term COVID-19.
That Equal Opportunities Commission (EEOC), the commission responsible for enforcing ADA’s anti-discrimination provisions in the workplace, has stated that an employer does not have to provide an employee with housing if it is undue hardship. According to EEOC “uHardship means that the placement would be too difficult or too expensive given the size of the employer, the financial resources and the needs of the company. An employer cannot refuse to provide accommodation just because there is a cost to do so. An employer does not have to provide exactly the accommodation that the employee or applicant desires. If more than one accommodation works, the employer can choose which one to make available. ” This statement is consistent with current ADA practice.
Specific properties must be met in order to receive long COVID housing in a workplace. This includes the workplace with at least 15 employees. Each accommodation request will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Both the Ministry of Labor and the EEOC provide common guidelines for the use of reasonable accommodation. Workplaces and employers are not asked to commit to accommodations that would negatively affect their business, such as living quarters. Reasonable provision would be to ensure that entrances, exits and washrooms are accessible.
The accommodations can include:
- Providing screen readers for people with visual impairments,
- Provision of interpreters for the hearing impaired,
- Adaptation or modification of exams, guidelines and training materials in accessible formats,
- Part-time or a changed work schedule,
- Provision of accessible equipment or devices, among others.
It is important to note that accommodations are not only intended for permanent disabilities. If it is determined that an employee needs temporary placement, the workplace can provide temporary placement. Should a person with long-term COVID no longer need housing, the workplace, worker, and EEOC and ADA would work together to reduce and then eliminate housing.
As the number of those vaccinated continues to grow, concern shifts to the unvaccinated. Currently, health professionals are concerned about the impact of long-haul vehicles on the already strained medical system. As the virus continues to mutate, complications such as long-haul cases are likely. As part of the ADA, people with long-distance COVID disabilities can find support in returning to work.
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