Employers are not accommodating people disabled by long COVID, activists tell House panel
Some people disabled by long COVID-19 are struggling in the workplace, with employers refusing to make accommodations for the new condition, disability activists told a House committee on Tuesday.
During a hearing for the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion, witnesses detailed the challenges that disabled people continue to face in accessing financial services, equitable housing and work opportunities.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) spoke of one of her constituents who developed long COVID-19 and experienced symptoms that caused him to struggle at his job. She asked Vilissa Thompson, co-director of the Disability Economic Justice Collaborative, what barriers for long COVID-19 sufferers she has observed.
According to Thompson, many employers have refused to make accommodations for employees who are disabled due to long COVID-19.
Last year, the Biden administration released new guidance that stated long COVID-19 could be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Thompson told the subcommittee that these new guidelines have not brought about a “smooth transition.”
Some accommodations that would help long COVID-19 sufferers would be allowing them to work from home, making schedules more flexible, adjusting dress codes, and giving people the option to sit or stand during the workday for jobs such as cashiers.
The rate at which long COVID-19 occurs among patients remains unclear. Symptoms of the condition are diverse and can range from mild to debilitating. Many people report breathing issues, persistent brain fog and fatigue.
Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) questioned the witnesses on Tuesday about whether employers were doing enough for people suffering from the post-COVID-19 condition.
Thomas Foley, executive director of the National Disability Institute, told the congresswoman that in many cases, employers are trying to be accommodating but added he had heard of many cases in which they failed to do so.
Foley said it was “pretty common” for disabled workers to be forced to work without any accommodations whatsoever.