The U.S. Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, announced July 12 the launch of a “virtual crowdsourcing event” aimed at collecting feedback from employees and employers about the impact of long COVID-19 in the workplace.
Under the title “Understanding and Addressing the Workplace Challenges Related to Long COVID,” the department is posing a series of questions grouped into five categories:
- What challenges do employees with long COVID-19 face in the workplace, and how can DOL help overcome these?
- What challenges are employers facing when supporting employees with long COVID-19?
- How can DOL best inform employees and employers about the latest long COVID-19 research, emerging practices and resources?
- Which organizations should be part of developing solutions for those affected by long COVID-19?
- If you are a worker with long COVID-19, have you experienced challenges in obtaining disability benefits from your employer-sponsored disability plans? If so, what type of challenges are you facing? What reasons are being given for the denial of benefits?
"The online dialogue is part of our ongoing commitment to supporting workers with long COVID, as well as their employers,” Taryn M. Williams, Assistant Secretary of Labor for DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, told HR Dive in an email. “ The input we receive will enhance our understanding of long COVID-related workplace challenges and inform our efforts to address those challenges whether it be through education, tools or programming. We're eager to hear from individuals, employers, national organizations, state and local community groups, and others as we collaborate on long COVID-related policies, practices and initiatives.”
The online event will be open to stakeholders for a period of 30 days, Williams said.
Legal discussion is emerging around long COVID-19 and its classification as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The CDC and the U.S. Department of Justice previously issued guidance confirming that long COVID-19 may constitute an ADA-defined disability if the condition substantially limits one or more major life activities.
In an April virtual event, an official with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission advised employers to be “flexible, oftentimes creative” in working with employees affected by COVID-19 or long COVID-19. Previously, sources told HR Dive that employers may need to take an individualized approach when determining how to accommodate employees with long COVID-19.
Separately, EEOC last week updated its technical assistance manual on COVID-19 to state its position that employers must now justify mandatory coronavirus testing for employees. This contrasted with the agency’s previous stance that the ADA’s standard for medical examinations always permitted an employer’s work site COVID-19 testing.