Long-Haul COVID: What Should Employers Do About Record Keeping?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “long COVID” or “long-haul COVID” as “new, returning or ongoing health problems” that people experience at least four weeks after first being infected with the coronavirus. Though legal questions remain about whether COVID-19 itself or medical conditions associated with long COVID-19 that workers experience fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the realization that COVID-19 leaves some people with long-term symptoms adds another layer of challenge for employers.
While research is still being conducted to better understand long-term medical conditions, initial studies report that post-COVID conditions can last for months even in people who had only mild cases of COVID-19, which may include fatigue, brain fog, regular headaches, heart palpitations, mood swings and lightheadedness. For people who had severe cases of COVID-19, long-term symptoms may include autoimmune conditions that can damage healthy organs. It is an important issue for employers because early estimates suggest that 10% to 30% of people who contract COVID-19 are long-haulers, which could lead to ADA claims for accommodations as well as short-term and long-term disability claims.
Keep Good Records
Lisa Wiltshire Alstead, an employment and labor law Partner at McDonald Carano with special expertise defending employers and insurers in workers’ compensation related matters, explained in a Law360 article that keeping excellent records is critical. Whether it involves assessing leave requests or considering the prospect of reasonable accommodations for COVID-19 long-haulers, employers need to meticulously document and memorialize as much information as possible in case any disputes arise in the future. Lisa noted that this information includes things like vaccination records, sick time employees took and reasons that workers call in sick that they say are related to COVID-19.
Employers should keep track of any reports of symptoms by workers on top of mandated record-keeping obligations imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other regulators. “In addition to looking into putting your vaccination policy in place, … employers really just want to have good record-keeping,” Lisa said. “OSHA has its regulations and requirements for record-keeping, but I think this will be really important … if you get to the point where you need to either address your individual employees and whether one of them may have a disability.”
Please click here to read the Law360 article titled “4 Things to Know About COVID ‘Long-Haulers’ At Work,” 8/16/2021
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