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DOJ Answers Common Questions About COVID-19 and the ADA

On Jan. 6, 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to businesses and other entities under certain circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new FAQs mainly focus on compliance with Titles II and III of the ADA. Title II applies to state and local governments, while Title III applies to businesses that are generally open to the public and that fall into one of 12 categories listed in the law. Among others, these include restaurants, movie theaters, schools, day care facilities, recreation facilities and doctors’ offices. The FAQs also include information about compliance with Title I, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

In particular, the FAQs address questions about situations involving service animals, mask requirements, long COVID-19, medical facility visitation and outdoor restaurant or retail spaces. This Compliance Bulletin provides the FAQs in full below.

ACTION STEPS

All entities subject to Titles II and III of the ADA should become familiar with the DOJ’s new FAQs. They should also follow the most current guidelines and suggestions for COVID-19 safety as issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and any applicable state or local health agencies.

Employers with 15 or more employees should also review guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about how the ADA and other federal fair employment laws apply during the COVID-19 pandemic. Smaller employers should become familiar with any applicable rules under similar applicable state or local laws.

Highlights

  • Service Animals – ADA rules requiring service animals to be admitted to any area open to the public still apply during the pandemic.
  • No DOJ Masking Exemptions – The DOJ does not provide exemptions from masking requirements, and any information indicating otherwise was not issued or endorsed by the DOJ.
  • Long COVID-19 and Disability – Long COVID-19 is not necessarily a disability under the ADA, though it can be if it substantially limits one or more life activities.
  • Medical Facility Visitors – Hospitals and other medical facilities must allow nonpatient visitors to accompany patients with a disability as necessary for equal access to care.
  • Outdoor Spaces – Outdoor dining and retail spaces are subject to the same ADA accessibility rules as those that apply to indoor spaces.

DOJ’s Common Questions About COVID-19 and the ADA

Can a business stop me from bringing in my service animal because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

No. 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.

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