COVID-19 and the Americans with Disabilities Act
“As a Nation, we cannot adequately respond to, and recover from, COVID-19 if we do not protect all of our neighbors. Civil rights protections and responsibilities still apply, even during emergencies. They cannot be waived.”
-Pamela S. Karlan Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights
Common Questions About COVID and the ADA
The rules for admitting service animals are the same even during the pandemic.
A service animal is a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. The tasks must be directly related to the person’s disability.
A business or a state/local government generally must allow a service animal to accompany a person with a disability into any area where the public is allowed to go. A service animal cannot be excluded just because staff can provide the same services.
According to the CDC, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.
EXAMPLE: A restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A woman with multiple sclerosis arrives at the restaurant with her service dog. The restaurant cannot require the woman to dine outside because of her service dog.
We do not provide exemptions from mask requirements. We are aware of postings and flyers on the internet, which include the Department of Justice’s seal. These postings were not issued or endorsed by us.
Long COVID can be a disability under the ADA if it substantially limits one or more major life activities. There is a wide range of ways that this could present itself.
Some examples include:
- A person with long COVID who has lung damage that causes shortness of breath, fatigue, and related effects is substantially limited in respiratory function, among other major life activities.
- A person with long COVID who has symptoms of intestinal pain, vomiting, and nausea that have lingered for months is substantially limited in gastrointestinal function, among other major life activities.
- A person with long COVID who experiences memory lapses and “brain fog” is substantially limited in brain function, concentrating, and/or thinking.
An individualized analysis is needed to determine whether a person’s long COVID condition substantially limits the person’s health and daily living.
For more information, see the Department’s Guidance on “Long COVID” as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has information about the ADA and other federal laws that protect you against employment discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information about your rights, visit the EEOC website at www.eeoc.gov, or call 1-800-669-4000 (voice), 1-800-669-6820 (TTY), or 1-844-234-5122 (ASL Video Phone).
Learn more about the Civil Rights Division’s disability response to Coronavirus
Leading a Coordinated Civil Rights Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Statement by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan (4/2/21)
Protecting Civil Rights While Responding to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Statement by Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband (4/28/20)