CF and Workplace Accommodations for COVID-19

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, millions of Americans, including those living with cystic fibrosis and their families, are facing tough decisions around employment. The issue of paid leave and its eligibility is emerging as a top concern for people with CF and working members of their family.

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There is no evidence to suggest that people with underlying health conditions are at higher risk of becoming infected with the novel coronavirus. However, according to the Centers for Disease and Infection Control (CDC), there is evidence to show that people with underlying health conditions, including lung disease, are at risk of developing serious illnesses from COVID-19 if they become infected. As a result, people with CF and working members of their household are looking for ways to reduce their risk of COVID-19 exposure to protect themselves and their loved ones.

However, people in the CF community have reported issues with receiving extended leave or remote work arrangements during the COVID-19 crisis, which leaves them with a potentially difficult choice of discontinuing work or increasing their chances of being exposed to the virus.

Below are resources to consider and information about current employment laws that protect working Americans. This is not intended to be legal advice but is meant to be an educational resource. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation encourages you to seek legal advice from an attorney should the need arise.

Employer Benefits and Offerings

The availability and coverage of these benefits will vary based on employer. Be sure to review your employer's benefits guide and/or employee handbook, which should aid in understanding benefits to which you may be entitled. In addition, it may be helpful to schedule time with your human resources representative to discuss your benefits and specific situation. Some benefits your employer may offer include:

  • Paid leave, which can include sick leave and vacation time
  • Short-term disability, which replaces a portion of your income when you are unable to work due to a short-term illness or injury
  • Long-term disability, which replaces a portion of your income when you are unable to work due to a long-term illness or injury
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which provides telephonic and/or in-person counseling and referral services
  • Resources provided through your health insurance to support members during COVID-19

Federal COVID-19 Legislation

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

FFCRA requires certain employers to provide eligible employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, at full or partial pay, for specific reasons related to COVID-19. Learn more with the Department of Labor's FFCRA overview.

Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)

The CARES Act provides an economic stimulus payment to certain individuals and enhances unemployment compensation by extending the length of time individuals may collect unemployment and increasing the amount of unemployment pay individuals can collect. For more information on filing for unemployment in your state, locate your state's unemployment office and contact them.

For more information on FFCRA or the CARES Act, see summaries from the Department of Labor (PDF) or CF Roundtable.

Existing Federal and State Legislation

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

FMLA is a federal law that requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for specified family and medical reasons, which may be increased to up to 26 weeks for situations involving people with military service. These reasons include, but are not limited to:

  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job
  • The need to care for the employee's spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition

The employer is not required to pay the employee, but eligible employees are entitled to continue the group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken FMLA leave. Approval for FMLA is not automatic and an employer may deny FMLA after reviewing an individual's circumstances. For more information on your rights under FMLA, see the Department of Labor's Employee Protections Under FMLA Factsheet or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Department of Labor's Guide on the FFCRA has information on the circumstances under which employees may have the right to be paid for medical and family leave.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA is a federal law that requires covered employers to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability that substantially limits a major life activity, including, but not limited to caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.

When requesting a reasonable job accommodation, make sure you follow your employer's policy for making a request. For assistance in requesting a reasonable job accommodation with your employer, speak to an expert at the Job Accommodations Network (JAN), which provides free consulting services for all employees, regardless of their health status. Services include one-on-one consultation about all aspects of job accommodations, including the accommodation process, accommodation ideas, product vendors, referral to other resources, and ADA compliance assistance. The CF Foundation takes no position regarding the availability of a reasonable accommodation in your specific workplace or JAN's ability to help in any specific case.

Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability is a type of insurance that provides some income for an employee who must leave work due to a temporary disability. Short-term disability can be offered as a benefit by your employer or you can purchase this insurance on the market. Short-term disability benefits vary widely among employers and may not cover those who have COVID-19 or those who want to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19. If you have questions about short-term disability offered by your employer, review your employer's benefits guide and/or employee handbook, which should aid in understanding benefits to which you may be entitled. In addition, it may be helpful to schedule time with your human resources representative to discuss your benefits and specific situation.

Get Help

Contact CF Foundation Compass at 844-COMPASS (844-266-7277) for help connecting with resources related to employment during COVID-19. 

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