A Temporary Impairment May Be Considered a Disability

A recent disability discrimination lawsuit determined that impairment, even if temporary may be considered a disability under the ADA Amendments Act. The issue came up in a case where an analyst was fired after he injured both his legs so that he wasn’t able to walk normally.

According to reports, the worker fell and injured himself while exiting a commuter train, fracturing his left leg, tearing the meniscus tendon in that leg, and breaking his right ankle and rupturing a patellar tendon in his right leg. Following multiple surgeries for these injuries, doctors forbid the worker from putting weight on his left leg for six weeks, and estimated that he wouldn’t be able to walk normally for at least seven months. Additionally he asserted that if he didn’t follow doctor’s instructions, he might not be able to walk normally for a full year after the accident.

While in the hospital, the worker contacted his employer – Altarum – about short-term disability and the possibility of work from home while he recuperated. A human resources representative suggested that he just take short-term disability and focus on getting better.

The worker then emailed the company concerning a plan to get back to work, starting out with short term disability, then working remotely, and slowly increase his hours to full time.

The company granted short-term disability payment but never responded to the worker’s request to work from home or any of his suggested accommodations. He was then fired so that the company could place another worker in his position.

The man sued, asserting that he was wrongfully terminated because of his disability and that the company failed to accommodate him.

If you believe you may have been wrongfully terminated as the result of a disability, it is important to consult with an experienced Georgia employment discrimination lawyer right away.

According to the ADA amendments act the EEOC, after being directed by Congress to construe “disability” more generously, adopted new regulations providing an impairment lasting less than six months can be a disability. Further,

“Although short-term impairments qualify as disabilities only if they are ‘sufficiently severe,’ it seems clear that the serious impairment alleged by [the worker] is severe enough to qualify,” the court said.

As the result the man could proceed with a claim for disability discrimination.

The court also commented that Altarum’s arguments that because the man could have worked with a wheelchair, he wasn’t disabled under the ADA, were flatly wrong.

“This inverts the appropriate inquiry,” the appeals court said. “A court must first establish whether a plaintiff is disabled by determining whether he suffers from a substantially limiting impairment. Only then may a court ask whether the plaintiff is capable of working with or without an accommodation. If the fact that a person could work with the help of a wheelchair meant that he was not disabled under the Act, the ADA would be eviscerated.”

For more information about employment discrimination or if you believe that you may have been wrongfully fired as the result of a disability, please contact the experienced Atlanta disability discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.