US EEOC Says Mild COVID Not Covered by Disability Bias Law

By Daniel Wiessner

December 15, 2021

(Reuters) - The U.S. agency that enforces laws banning employers from discriminating based on medical conditions said on Tuesday that mild COVID-19 cases will typically not trigger legal protections for workers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in guidance posted on its website said a COVID-19 case that resolves within a few weeks is not a "disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA protects workers from being fired or facing retaliation because of their disabilities. The law also requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations that would allow workers with disabilities to do their jobs.

The EEOC in its guidance said respiratory issues and other impairments caused by COVID-19 can be covered by the ADA when they significantly limit a worker's bodily functions or life activities such as walking and lifting.

"Long COVID," or the aftereffects of being infected by COVID-19 that last for four weeks or longer, can also be covered by the law when it leads to ongoing respiratory and gastrointestinal issues, the commission said.

The guidance comes as many states and cities are imposing stricter mask-wearing and vaccine mandates amid a winter surge in COVID-19 cases and the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.