Arthritis May Be Considered a Disability for Purposes of the ADA/ADAAA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) protect qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination. This definition can be confusing to some, particularly figuring out who is covered by the act and whether your condition is considered a “disability.”

If you have questions about the ADA, whether you are covered and what protections you many be entitled to, it’s a good idea to consult with an Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer right away.

In order to be covered, generally you must meet two criteria:

1) Be a qualified individual; and
2) Have a medical, physiological or psychiatric condition that limits a major life activity.

Qualified individuals include those workers who can generally perform the job but have limitations due to their disability. If by making certain reasonable adjustments, the worker would be able to perform the job, then an employer may be required to take these actions. This includes things like allowing a worker to come in later, changing a workspace if it exacerbates a medical condition or providing a telephone amplifier if the worker is hard of hearing.

To be considered a “disability, ” the condition must limit an employee’s (or prospective employee’s) ability to participate is a major life activity. For example, blindness limits the major life activity of seeing.

However, conditions not as commonly considered a “disability” may also fit this category. A recent case – Blickle v. Illinois Dep’t of Children & Family Servs. – determined that a woman with arthritis could bring a claim against her employer (the State of Illinois) after it failed to transfer her to a city closer to her doctor’s office. The court also found that she was fired in violation of the ADA.

The facts of this case included the following:

The woman was hired by DCFS in 1995. 14 years later her back arthritis was so severe that it became disabling. She was still able to perform the duties of her job, but in March 2010 requested that she be reassigned to a city closer to her home where she received physical therapy for her back. The woman asserted that accommodating her by moving her there would have allowed her to work a full day and attend therapy after work. She also stated that this transfer would not have changed any of her daily work activities or interfered with her ability to perform her job. The transfer request was never granted, and the woman was later fired.

The court determined that this case stated enough facts that a jury should be allowed to decide whether the woman has a claim of disability discrimination against her former employer based on her arthritic condition and the failure of her employer to change her job location.

For more information about the ADA/ADAAA or if you believe you may have experienced disability discrimination, please contact an Atlanta disability discrimination lawyer at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.