The 900,000 Surge of Disabled Workers in the United States, the Role of COVID-19, and What Can Happen To Your ERISA Disability Claim When Work Accommodations End
According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “there has been a surge of about 900,000 people with disabilities in the U.S. workforce since 2020.” It is thought the increase is due to Americans with long COVID who have remained in the workforce.
Emily Peck of Axios Markets wrote an article entitled “Behind the Surge in Workers With Disability: Long COVID,” in which she reported that employers are accommodating the needs of those with COVID. In her discussions with Richard Dietz of the Federal Reserve, he pointed out that “the majority of the newly disabled deal with fatigue and brain fog, the hallmarks of long COVID.”
Economists suspect that the shrinking pool of workers and the rise of remote work has made it easier for the disabled to continue to work.
In my experience as and ERISA disability attorney I have found that telecommuting and flex work make it easier for those with long COVID or other disabling conditions, to “hide” their conditions from their employers.
The problem occurs when the disabled worker with an ERISA disability policy either
- can no longer hide their illness because of an increase in symptoms, or
- can no longer hide it because the employer is now requiring a physical return to work, or
- anticipates a layoff as the economy cools.
The Disabled Worker Can No Longer Hide Because of An Increase in Symptoms
Telecommuting and flex work allow a disabled worker to work around their symptoms and “maintain” their productivity. But as the symptoms increase, they may be temped to try to reduce their hours in an effort to keep their job. That can be a problem because many disability policies or plans require that you work at least 30 hours per week to maintain disability coverage. If you reduce your hours below that, you are no longer eligible, and if you quit or get fired, you don’t have any disability coverage.
The Disabled Worker Can No Longer Hide Because They Have to Physically Go to Work
The commute to and from work can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and the worker who has been working while disabled, is tempted to quit. That is the absolute wrong thing to do. What you should do is see your doctor, tell them about how you have tried to work while disabled, tell them about your disabling symptoms, and get the doctor to take you out of work before you must start commuting. Then, file your claim for short and/or long-term disability benefits.
The Disabled Worker Anticipates A Layoff
Just like the disabled worker who can no longer hide, don’t quit your job! Follow the same strategy and file a claim for short and/or long-term disability benefits before the layoff.
Once you are lain off, you lose your disability coverage, and it doesn’t matter that you were working while you were disabled. Worse yet, if you find another job, your medical condition will be excluded from any new disability policy on the basis that it is a pre-existing condition.
What Should You Do if You Are Working While Disabled?
Cavey Law has seen it all and can answer your questions before you have an increase in the symptoms that prevent you from hiding from your employer, before you must physically return to the office, or before an anticipated layoff.
Call 727-894-3188 for a complimentary consultation, regardless of where you live in the United States.