Long COVID protected by Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

note pad on a table that says ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act

Now that most indoor mask and other public health requirements have lifted in Oregon, navigating COVID-19 is shifting to personal and community-level decision-making. This news has come as a relief to many, especially those who are vaccinated and boosted and wish to return to some level of pre-pandemic social interactions. For others, even with personal precautions such as getting vaccinated or continuing to wear a mask indoors around people, getting COVID-19 can still carry significant risk.

Specifically, a condition called long COVID, where people do not fully recover from an initial COVID-19 infection, can cause a variety of symptoms that continue months past the typical recovery time.

Long COVID symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate (“brain fog”)
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Sleep issues
  • Joint or nerve pain that can last weeks or months
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased severity of symptoms after mental or physical activity (known as post-exertional malaise)
  • Anxiety or depression

Recent research shows that people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 are less likely to develop long COVID symptoms; however, the possibility is still there. And if these or other symptoms disrupt a person’s ability to do their job, federal law allows that person to ask for reasonable accommodations from their employer to help.

Long COVID-19 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Passed into law in 1990, the ADA protects people with a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Those activities can include:

  • Speaking
  • Standing
  • Lifting
  • Concentrating
  • Sensory functions like seeing or hearing, and more

Typical ADA accommodations might include things like adjusting an employee’s workstation, allowing for remote work options, creating a flexible work schedule or loosening project deadlines. Under the ADA, employers with 15 employees or more must offer reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

The procedure for seeking workplace accommodations may differ from employer to employer. If you have long COVID symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, you can contact the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI). BOLI has resources that help explain the rights of workers who have disabilities. You can also find more information from the ADA National Network, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Being vaccinated and boosted is still the best way to prevent long COVID because it vastly lowers your risk of getting COVID-19 in the first place. If you’re looking for places to get an initial vaccine series or booster dose, check out this list of high-volume vaccination sites around Oregon, or go to Get Vaccinated Oregon for additional vaccine and booster options near you.