For COVID long haulers – or those experiencing long-term symptoms after getting infected from the COVID-19 virus – going back to work can be a daunting task.
Some people are reporting long-term symptoms of fatigue, brain fog, fever and nausea, making it hard to focus on tasks at work, from things as simple as email to as complex as physical tasks.
So what should workers do who are experiencing physical and cognitive symptoms even months after being infected?
Ed Buckley, Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP’s Managing Partner, recently sat down with WSB-TV News to discuss what workers should know as workplaces begin to reopen and more people are vaccinated.
First, you should know your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Buckley says.
Generally, the ADA protects people from disability discrimination and is relevant to the pandemic in a few ways. As an employee, you have certain rights and your employer will need to make certain accommodations if you have been affected by long-term symptoms.
But employers have certain rights as well. Buckley confirms your boss can ask for evidence you’ve been vaccinated before coming back to the workplace (though there may be certain exceptions for people with other disabilities that prevent vaccination or even some who are not vaccinated for religious reasons).
Buckley told WSB-TV, it’s not enough to be an “anti-vaxxer,” or someone who doesn’t believe in getting vaccinated. There has to be a legitimate medical reason not to get vaccinated.
Your employer has other obligations under the ADA as well. One of those is to help you come back to work and to make reasonable accommodations for you if you’re still experiencing long-term symptoms.
A recent Wall Street Journal article told the stories of many workers who are trying to cope with anguishing fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
An employee may ask for a different shift, shorter shifts, or longer shifts with more breaks, fewer meetings or adjusted expectations around constant digital communications. If you ask to reduce your workload 20 percent, you might expect your pay to be adjusted by 20 percent, but that could be a win-win for you and your employer who wants to keep a talented employee and you keep your benefits and steady paycheck. Or you could ask to continue to work from home if your job lends itself to telecommuting as an easy accommodation.
While Covid Long Haulers can seek accommodations for their disabilities, their employers can expect them to perform the essential functions of their jobs with or without accommodation.
We would encourage you to be your own best advocate if you are a COVID long-hauler – don’t be shy about asking for accommodations, especially if you are still going to doctor’s appointments or have extreme fatigue.
But if your employer is not receptive, our attorneys are here to help you navigate this unprecedented global pandemic and your workplace rights.