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Is COVID-19 a Disability Under the Law?

Disability dictionaryIs COVID19 Considered a Disability

The short answer is: no, COVID-19 is not a disability under the law, but the nuts and bolts of the inquiry are often far more complex.  Indeed, this has also been the case with past influenza pandemics.  Generally, for a medical condition to be considered a legal disability, it cannot be a temporary, nonchronic condition of short duration with little potential long-term impact.  Rather, a disability that is protected under the law is generally a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as performing manual tasks, concentrating, hearing, or sleeping. 

However, an employer’s legal obligations regarding COVID-19 and an employee with a potential disability certainly does not end there.  If you are someone with a pre-existing condition, such as asthma, diabetes, or a heart condition, that puts you at greater risk during this pandemic, you could be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the law.  A reasonable accommodation is a modification to your position that enables you to perform the essential functions of your job such as working from home.

An employer does not have to provide an employee with an accommodation if the accommodation would pose an “undue hardship” for the employer, which means an accommodation that would result in significant difficulty or expense for the employer.  But before an employer can reject an employee’s an accommodation, the employer must engage in an interactive process seeking to accommodate an employee’s disability.  The interactive process is a dialogue between the employer and the employee during which the employer can ascertain what a specific employee’s limitations are and what potential accommodations might be possible for the employee’s specific limitations.

Additionally, the law also protects employees who are perceived or regarded as disabled, regardless of whether an employee actually has a disability under the law.  Thus, if you are sick, your employer perceives you as disabled, and you are then subject to an adverse employment action, you are also entitled to protections under the law.

If you feel that you are being discriminated against during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, please contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. immediately to schedule a consultation.

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