HHS and DOJ Issue Nonbinding Guidance Clarifying Disability Protections for “Long COVID”

HHS and DOJ jointly issued nonbinding informational guidance on “long COVID” as a protected disability under federal civil rights law.

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September 06, 2022

On July 26, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division (CRT) jointly issued guidance on “long COVID” as a disability under federal civil rights law. The guidance defines long COVID and associated symptoms according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and characterizes long COVID as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

While the Departments define long COVID as a physical or mental impairment that can substantially limit an individual’s major life activities, the Departments note that long COVID is not always considered a disability and individualized assessments are necessary to determine whether an individual’s symptoms are substantially limiting. The guidance states that individuals whose long COVID qualifies as a disability are entitled to the same nondiscrimination protections as any other person with a disability under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557. The guidance includes examples of “reasonable accommodations”.

The guidance includes an inventory of federal government resources for individuals with symptoms of long COVID.

What’s Next?

While the information included in the guidance may be helpful, HHS and DOJ characterize the guidance as nonbinding and state it is intended as an explanation of current law and policies. Employer plan sponsors should review the guidance with legal counsel, consultants, and third-party administrators and medical and disability vendors to discuss the implications of the guidance and determine compliance.

If you have questions, comments, or concerns about these or other regulatory and compliance issues, please contact us.

We provide this material for informational purposes only; it is not a substitute for legal advice.

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