The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's recognition that long covid-19 can be considered a disability under the Disability Americans Act is expected to increase employers' potential responsibilities.
The condition includes long-term symptoms experienced by people recovering from covid- 19, such as fatigue, "brain fog", shortness of breath and dizziness when standing, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The severity of long covid-19 symptoms varies and much is unknown about the condition, including how many people it affects and how long the symptoms will last.
The US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Justice issued joint guidance on the treatment of long covid-1
The Federal ADA, which has parallel state laws, requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified employees if they can perform their jobs without causing the employer "unnecessary difficulty."
A person with a disability is someone whose condition significantly limits one or more major life activities, such as walking or standing. Related laws that may be a factor in managing long covid-19 include the Family Medical Leave Act, and it is likely to affect workers' compensation claims, acceptance, management and disability also indefinitely, experts say.
The EEOC's commitment 'is certainly not shocking, given that the ADA's definition of disability' is generally quite broad and, given what we know so far about long COVID, I really think there is a very legitimate argument that, depending on the circumstances, someone with a long COVID may meet the definition of disability, ”says Marissa A. Mastroianni, associate with Cole Schotz PC in Hackensack, New Jersey, who represents employers.
EEOC guidance will be significant, "especially given the increase in cases we see due to the delta variant and breakthrough infections for fully vaccinated people," said Alexa Miller, an associate of Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP in Florham. Park, New Jersey.
Paul E. Starkman, an employment lawyer and member of the Chicago law firm Clark Hill PLC, said that the problem can cause significant problems for employers because it involves such an amorphous and diffuse set of symptoms and is difficult to diagnose.  The move from EEOC will create additional challenges for employers who are also trying to understand the complex interactive housing process required, says Allyson K. Thompson, partner with Kaufman Dolowich Voluck LLP in Los Angeles.
"It multiplies employer issues," says Eric Meyer, a partner at FisherBroyles LLP in Philadelphia, making it "the employer's responsibility to ask for information from the employee's physician. "
Receiving an employee with a long covid-19 can be as simple as providing them with a chair if they suffer from dizziness," said JD Piro, Norwalk, Connecticut-based senior vice president with Aon Health Solutions.
But in some cases it will require more substantive changes.
"You may need to do things like change deadlines, change shifts, maybe change working hours," depending on the symptoms and diagnosis, Starkman said.