Things You Didn’t Know (But Should) About The ADA
When we think of disabilities that our employees or workers may face, we often think we, as employers, know when an employee is disabled, and we know when we need to make accommodations for them.
Disability Isn’t Always Clear
But in the real world, many diseases and disabilities aren’t so clear, and the nature of disease can make it difficult to tell when an accommodation needs to be made. Take, for example, cancer. A cancer patient can have episodes where they are so ill—either from the disease or from treatment—that they cannot get out of bed. But then, they may have periods in between, where they seem to be as active and healthy as everyone else.
Some disabilities don’t ever seem to affect people at all. Hypertension is certainly a disease, but many people have hypertension, and go to work just fine. Mental disorders, asthma, or epilepsy are other such disabilities that can fluctuate between being debilitating, and having little effect at all on someone.
Little Known Changes to the ADA
As an employer, you are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees who are disabled under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) no matter what—even for disabilities that are sporadic, or in remission.
In a 2008 amendment to the Act congress made some important changes to the act. Some of them include:
- It does not matter that medicine or assistive devices or some other measure can mitigate or lessen the effects of a disability. Accommodations still must be made for any employee with a qualifying disability.
- Episodic diseases or those in remission are still disabilities. The employee doesn’t always have to be demonstrating symptoms. So long as the disability would limit a major life activity when not in remission, the employee will be considered disabled.
- Cosmetic disfigurements can also count as a disability.
- Any loss of anatomy that affects almost any part of the body will be considered a disability, even if the person can still function
- A disability must substantially limit the ability of someone to perform a major life activity, or must interfere with the body’s organs or systems.
- Any illness or injury where someone would be “perceived as disabled” will qualify, even if the employee isn’t actually, currently limited or disabled (again, so long as the disability still limits performing a major life activity).
If someone is disabled, the employer must provide reasonable accommodations—even if the accommodation is not directly related to the disability, so long as it is caused by the disability.
For example, someone may be disabled because of depression. If the medicine they take makes them unable to focus, or makes them sleepy, they must be accommodated—even though it’s not actually the depression itself that is causing the need for the accommodation.
Call the West Palm Beach employment lawyers at Pike & Lustig to answer your employment and labor law questions.