Although many people with COVID-19 get better within weeks, some people continue to experience symptoms that can last months after first being infected, or may have new or recurring symptoms at a later time. This can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if the initial illness was mild. People with this condition are sometimes called “long-haulers.” This condition is known as “long COVID” and it can be a disability under Title II (state and local government) and Title III (public accommodations) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 , and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. See workplacefairness.org/disabilities/COVID-19 for more information on COVID-19 and disabilities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increase in some types of harassment. Antidiscrimination laws protect you from being harassed at work because of your national origin; race; color; religion; older age (age 40 and older); sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity); genetic information; or disability. Regarding COVID-19, they are especially important if you are being harassed, if you are “high-risk” and need extra protection from getting sick, if your employer is not allowing you to work, or if you need a modification of your employer’s COVID-19 safety requirements. See workplacefairness.org/discrimination/COVID-19 for more information.
Getting sick can sometimes cause far more problems with your employer than you might imagine. Can you be fired for getting sick, or forced to stay home when a family member is sick? What do you do if you contract a contagious illness like COVID-19? It is important for workers and employers alike to know what employment actions are lawful in the face of serious illnesses, and how individuals and companies can protect themselves when infectious diseases are going around. See workplacefairness.org/infectious diseases for more information on COVID-19 and the workplace. You will find information on the virus, vaccination mandates, vaccine passport bans, school-related COVID-19 policies, testing requirements, and what employers can ask of you if you have an infectious disease.
Important Update: On January 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Emergency Temporary Standard requiring businesses with at least 100 employees to ensure workers are vaccinated against the coronavirus or wear masks and undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. However, it allowed the federal government to require COVID-19 vaccination for healthcare workers at Medicare- and Medicaid-certified providers and suppliers. See the U.S. Supreme Court decision for more information. The federal contractor vaccine mandate is being litigated; it will not be enforced until the litigation is completed.
President Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal employees has been delayed due to litigation.
Currently, federal law generally does not require employers to provide paid leave to employees who are absent from work because they are sick with COVID-19, have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or are caring for someone with COVID-19. However, if you are out with COVID-19 or are caring for ill family members, you may be eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. See workplacefairness.org/benefitsandleaves/FMLAandCOVID-19 for more information.
COVID-19 extended unemployment benefits from the federal government have ended, but you may still qualify for unemployment benefits from your state. See Unemployment Insurance for Individuals Affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - Workplace Fairness for more information.Job loss is a very personal experience which people handle in very individual ways. Maintaining a positive outlook may not come easily to everyone, and may require serious effort on your part. See workplacefairness.org/ coping with job loss for suggestions on how to cope with job loss.
Feeling at risk at work over Coronavirus and you don’t have a union to protect you? Your employer has the legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency of the U.S. Department of Labor, and a contract if you have a union. This requires the employer to protect all workers from all known hazards, including infectious disease such as COVID-19. See workplacefairness.org/workplacehealthandsafety/COVID-19 for more information.
In addition to OSHA, many states have their own law governing health and safety in the workplace. It is important to check state laws in conjunction with OSHA to be fully aware of your rights. Some states provide more protection or additional rules for specific industries or workplaces which work with OSHA protections. See workplacefairness.org/health and safety-state laws for more information.Employees also have protections for infectious diseases when there are outbreaks, natural disasters, and public health emergencies. See the workplacefairness.org Employee Protections During Natural Disasters and Epidemics and Workers’ Rights During Public Health Emergencies pages for more information.
When your safety is on the line, it is important to have information from trusted sources about how to keep you and your co-workers safe. The following resources provide guidance on how to navigate COVID-19.
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). The AFL-CIO is the largest federation of unions in the United States. It created a state guide to help individuals find resources, programs and benefits to assist them with COVID-19: Resources for Workers Impacted by COVID-19
American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The AFT is the second largest teacher’s union in the United States. It created Coronavirus & Distance Learning Resources For Parents to help families adjust to learning during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is the national public health agency of the United States. The agency's main goal is the protection of public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability in the US and worldwide. See the CDC COVID-19 webpage for the agency’s guidance on COVID-19 issues: vaccination, COVID-19 variants, and information on protecting yourself against COVID-19 where you live, work, and learn.
Job Accommodation Network (JAN). JAN is a free service of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. Over the years, JAN consultants have developed practical ideas to help employees understand the ADA and request and negotiate reasonable accommodations in the workplace. JAN developed the Employees' Practical Guide to Requesting & Negotiating Reasonable Accommodation.
See the JAN Corona Virus Disease webpage for more information on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance assistance and practical job accommodation strategies for returning individuals with disabilities to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. These strategies can enable workers with disabilities to return to the work environment, work at home, or access leave when other accommodations are not reasonable.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(EEOC). The EEOC is a federal agency that was established via the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to administer and enforce civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. See the EEOC Coronavirus and COVID-19 webpagefor information and questions and answers from the public on COVID-19. Areas addressed include COVID-19 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and other EEO laws and a COVID-19 fact sheet for employers.
Futures Without Violence. Futures Without Violence is a nonprofit organization that works to end violence against women and children. The organization created COVID-19, Survivors & the Workplace Resource [Spanish] to offer tops to help supervisors and coworkers recognize when a colleague may be experiencing violence at home, respond in a manner that centers the survivor’s physical and emotional safety needs, and refer them to resources available to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.
National Employment Law Project(NELP). NELP is a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies to create good jobs, expand access to work, and strengthen protections and support for low-wage workers and unemployed workers. The organization created Worker Safety and Health During COVID-19 Pandemic: Rights and Resources Toolkit for workers, their advocates, and policymakers to help ensure that workers are protected.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency that ensures safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. See the OSHA Corona Virus Disease webpage for information on OSHA regulations, mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, vaccination, and testing.
Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence. This organization is a national resource center for victims of domestic and sexual violence. As workplaces adjust to an unfamiliar reality of remote interactions, the COVID-19, Survivors & the Workplace Resource may help supervisors and coworkers recognize when a colleague may be experiencing violence at home, respond in a manner that centers the survivor’s physical and emotional safety needs, and refer them to resources available to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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