Day in and day out, we at Pautsch Spognardi & Baiochhi Legal Group get more questions about disability discrimination and accommodation than any other law. Listed below are the questions AND answers!
- The Americans with Disabilities Act and state laws providing protections against disability discrimination cover employers with 15 or more employees, and not those with less.
False: Many states have laws protecting individuals with disabilities working or applying for jobs at companies that employ as few as one (1) employee. Illinois and Wisconsin are among these states.
- So long as you treat an employee who is an individual with a disability the same as all other employees you will comply with the requirements of ADA.
False: It is true that individuals with a disability are entitled to treatment equal to that which you give non-disabled employees. But, you are also required by ADA to afford these individuals with disabilities reasonable accommodations that allow them to perform essential functions of their job.
- ADA and state discrimination laws against disability discrimination require equal treatment between employees with disabilities and those employees that do not have disabilities.
True: It is true that this is required. But as noted in the answer to question #2, more is required—reasonable accommodation.
- Depressive disorder is a covered disability under ADA.
True and False: It all depends on whether the condition of the employee or applicant is such that it meets the definition of a “qualified individual with a disability” under ADAAA or applicable. In other words, does the physical or mental condition substantially limit the employee or applicant in a major life activity such as walking, seeing, talking, working, etc., or does the employee or applicant have a record of such impairment, or is the employee perceived as having such a condition? This is often a difficult analysis that must be made based on the individualized circumstances of that individual’s condition. So, some cases of cancer will be determined to be a disability, and some will not.
- An employee who suffers a compound fracture of their tibia and fully recovers from this injury and receives a full release for work in four months’ time is likely covered by ADA due to this condition.
False: Under the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008, Congress set six months as the minimum time for coverage as a disability protected by the law. Beware, however, of terminating an employee based on this premise and law. It is particularly risky to terminate an employee based on the assumption that the disability won’t last more than six months, when it may.
- An employee who suffers an Achilles tear in her left foot and is fully released for a return to work after exactly one year is covered under ADA.
Probably True: Given the length of time involved, see the answer to question 5 above; it is likely that this condition is covered.
- An employee whose only physical limitation on her medical release for work is a 15-pound lifting restriction is not covered by ADA.
Probably False: If this release is permanent, then almost certainly the employee is covered because this has been held by many courts and agency’s to be a substantial limitation on the major life activity of lifting.
- An employee whose only physical limitation on his medical release for work is a 50-pound lifting restriction is not covered by ADA.
True: Many cases have decided that this sort of condition is not a covered disability because it does not “substantially limit” a major life activity. In other words, the employee is still a pretty good lifter.
- Migraine headaches are not a covered disability under ADA.
True and False: For all of the same reasons noted above with respect to “cancer”, some cases of migraine headaches are covered, while others are not.
- The definition that sets forth the requirements for qualifying as an “individual with a disability under ADA” is essentially the same as that defining a “serious health condition” under the FMLA.
False: The two definitions are vastly different. FMLA’s definition focuses on the need for continuing medical treatment and in-patient hospitalization while ADA’s definition is, as noted above, far more focused on the length and the long-term severity of the condition.
As you can see from these answers, ADA, and the state disability, discrimination laws are difficult laws to interpret and apply to the facts and conditions that occur and are present in your workplace. The definition of who is a qualified individual with a disability is a particularly knotty one. The Supreme Court has tackled this definition many times and Congress reversed a number of these decisions in passing the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008.
Pautsch Spognardi & Baiocchi Legal Group, LLP; http://www.psb-attorneys.com/ Office: 414-223-5743