Showing 3 posts in ADAAA.

Even Under ADAAA, Major Life Activity of Working Still Requires a Heightened Showing

A medical assistant began suffering migraine headaches after being reassigned to a new doctor within the medical group by which she was employed. The headaches occurred several times per week and varied in severity. Shortly after submitting a letter of resignation, the assistant asked to rescind it. The request was denied. The assistant sued the medical group under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that the employer failed to accommodate her disability and wrongfully terminated her employment. During discovery, it was established that the assistant had never suffered migraines prior to working for the specific doctor to whom she was reassigned, and stopped suffering headaches after her employment ended. Under the ADA, to qualify as disabled an individual must establish that he or she suffers from a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Before the trial court, the assistant argued that she was substantially limited in the major life activity of working. Prior to the passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), establishing a substantial limitation in the ability to work required a showing that one was limited in a class of jobs or a broad range of jobs, rather than simply unable to perform a specific job or work for a specific employer. Nevertheless, the assistant argued that under the new U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations interpreting the ADAAA, she could establish a substantial limitation on her ability to work even if she was only unable to perform a single job. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit rejected this argument. While it noted that the EEOC’s amended regulations no longer specifically refer to the “class of jobs or a broad range of jobs” requirement, the agency’s interpretive guidance makes clear that this remains a required showing to establish a substantial limitation in the major life activity of working. Consequently, the assistant could not establish that she was disabled under the ADA, and summary judgment was granted to the employer. Employers should focus on specifically how an employee is limited in performing his or her job, as those facts may be crucial in determining whether the individual is disabled under the ADA.

Allen v. Southcrest Hosp., No. 11-5016 (10th Cir. Dec. 21, 2011)

Employee’s Sleep Apnea not a Qualifying Disability Under the ADA

A registered nurse suffered from sleep apnea and was repeatedly late for work as a result. The employee allegedly informed his employer that he was having difficulty sleeping and disclosed his suspicions regarding the possibility of having sleep apnea. The employee was subsequently given a verbal warning for excessive tardiness. The employee continued to arrive late, resulting in a suspension without pay and a threat of termination. These measures remedied the employee’s tardiness issue. However, months later, the employee had a verbal altercation with another co-worker and mentioned fatigue due to sleep apnea as one of several reasons. After being asked if he needed some time off to deal with his sleep apnea issues, the employee informed the employer that his “heart and soul were not in this job anymore.” The following day he was terminated. Subsequently, the employee received medical confirmation that he suffered from severe obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. He sued the employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The employer argued that the employee was not disabled under the ADA. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed, and held that the employee was not a “qualified individual with a disability.” The court ruled that the employee’s sleep apnea did not “substantially limit” a major life activity because there was little evidence that the employee’s sleep was severely disrupted and the employee conceded that his sleep apnea did not impair his ability to do his job. Employers may take adverse action against employees who are performing inadequately, but must ensure that adverse action is never based on an employee’s disability. Additionally, with the recent issuance of the final regulations implementing the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), employers should be mindful that many conditions not previously considered “disabilities” under the ADA may now qualify and in most situations, employers should proceed cautiously by engaging in a good faith interactive process with their employees.

EEOC Issues Final Regulations Implementing the ADA Amendment Act

On March 24, 2011, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released long-awaited final regulations implementing the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA). The ADAAA became effective on January 1, 2009. The final regulations implement the legislative intent of the ADAAA to make it easier for individuals with disabilities to obtain protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADAAA emphasizes that the primary focus in ADA cases should be on whether employers complied with their obligations under the statute and whether discrimination occurred, not whether individuals are disabled under the law. The regulations maintain this focus by retaining the broad definition of “disability.” More ›