Answers on COVID-19 and the ADA

The Department of Justice (DOJ) released answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) on how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to businesses under specific circumstances related to the pandemic. These FAQs highlight compliance with Titles II and III of the ADA relating to state and local governments and businesses generally open to the public respectively.

Keep informed

Those subject to Titles II and III should be familiar with the DOJ’s new FAQs along with the most up-to-date guidelines on COVID-19 safety according to the CDC and applicable state health agencies. Employers with 15 or more employees should review guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on how the ADA and other federal fair employment laws apply during the pandemic. Those with fewer employees should be familiar with any similar applicable rules under state and local laws.

FAQs

  1. Can a business stop me from bringing in my service animal because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
    • Rules that were in effect prior to the pandemic still stand in place. A service animal can accompany a person with a disability into any public area and cannot be excluded because staff can provide the same services.
  2. Does the DOJ issue exemptions from mask requirements?
    • There are posters and flyers that say otherwise; however, they were not issued or endorsed by the DOJ.
  3. Can long COVID-19 be a disability under the ADA?
    • Yes, but only if it substantially limits one or more major life activities. For example:
      • Lung damage which results in shortness of breath, fatigue, and other effects leading to limited respiratory function
      • Intestinal pain, vomiting, and nausea that have spanned for months leading to gastrointestinal dysfunction
      • Memory lapses and “brain fog” leading to brain dysfunction
  1. Is long COVID-19 always a disability under the ADA?
  2. Can a hospital or medical facility exclude all “visitors” even where, due to a patient’s disability, the patient needs help from a family member, companion, or aide in order to equally access care?
    • No, while many visitor policies have changed due to the pandemic, policies that protect the needs of people with disabilities are protected by the ADA. Not every person with a disability needs a companion to equally access medical care, but some do. On an individual basis, the medical provider should explore whether a modification to its policy can be safely executed.
  3. Does the ADA apply to outdoor restaurants or other outdoor retail spaces that have popped up since COVID-19?
    • Yes, outdoor spaces need to be accessible to people with disabilities just like indoor spaces. Local governments must confirm their programs and activities comply with the ADA even though it has moved outside.

For more detailed information, refer to this document. If you have questions, please contact your Creative Benefits, Inc. team member.