DIEP RRTC

Episode 19: Accommodations in the Era of Long COVID

In this episode, Professor Yana Rodgers, Rutgers University, and Professor Jennifer Cohen, Miami University discuss their collaborative research efforts about Long COVID as a disability, and accommodations in the workplace. They share how the early stages of the world learning about the after-effects of COVID-19 and data that proved that millions were experiencing similar outcomes led them to their research. However, it isn’t only about investigating Long COVID in a broad sense. Rodgers and Cohen also discuss how Long COVID does not impact all groups of people equally, and specifically how gender and sexual minorities, as well as women and individuals with preexisting disabilities, tend to experience Long COVID more than the general population. They discuss that even though Long COVID affects some groups more than others, the employment trends do not always reflect the same impact because some groups are more likely to have to work through illness to continue earning income.

Cohen and Rodgers also discuss the issuance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that people with Long COVID may qualify as individuals with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. One of the challenges, they discuss, is that individuals with Long COVID are often new to the disability community and may not even know that they can ask for and receive disability accommodations from their employer. They may also not know what can qualify as a disability accommodation. However, the researchers found that people with Long COVID would greatly benefit from the remote work accommodation and the acceptance of telework that the pandemic brought. This is especially relevant considering that a common aspect of Long COVID is brain fog, and throughout the pandemic people with cognitive impairments were among those who most benefited from increased opportunities for remote work.

The expansion of remote work and the benefits it has had for people with disabilities has had the effect of an “unintentional accommodation,” they say, but it has also uncovered that disability is more common than people realize. However, remote work isn’t the only answer or option for workers with Long COVID, especially considering many work in jobs that require in-person interaction because of occupational distribution. For instance, other accommodations could include shorter workdays or different job tasks. This could be a “silver lining” of the pandemic because it could help eradicate the stigma around disability.

Cohen and Rodgers conclude by suggesting paid family leave and additional guidance on how employers in different industries can support workers with disabilities as potential policy changes around Long COVID. They also shared their possibilities for future research on how Long COVID impacts people with intersectional identities as well as new qualitative research that explores the impact of Long COVID on people in different jobs and occupations.

Speakers

Michael Morris
Michael Morris
Podcast Moderator, Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University
Yana Rogers
Yana Rogers
Professor, Department of Labor Studies & Employment Relations – Rutgers
Jennifer Cohen
Jennifer Cohen
Associate Professor in the Department of Global and Intercultural Studies at Miami University of Ohio

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