Temporary Illnesses or Conditions May Be Covered by the ADA/ADAAA

When does an illness or condition constitute a disability that is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA)? In a recent case, Gogos v. AMS Mech. Sys., Inc., a pipe welder – Anthimos Gogos – alleged he was fired for seeking medical treatment after his blood pressure spiked and he experienced vision loss.

The ADA/ADAAA prohibits discrimination against “qualified individuals with a disability” in the terms and conditions of employment. The ADA also prohibits disability harassment and retaliation against you for complaining about disability discrimination or for participating in someone else’s disability discrimination case. However, not all injuries, illnesses or even medically defined disabilities are covered by the ADA. The ADA protects a specific class of individuals-qualified individuals with a disability. A qualified individual with a disability is an individual with any medical, physiological, or psychiatric condition that substantially limits a major life activity. Temporary conditions or conditions that, although serious, don’t substantially limit any of your major life activities are not covered.

If you have questions about the ADA/ADAAA or believe that you may have suffered discrimination as the result of a disability, it is critical to consult with an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer right away.

Here, the lower court said that high blood pressure didn’t qualify as a covered disability under federal law because the condition was “transitory” and “suspect.” The appellate court disagreed. The court explained that an impairment may qualify for ADA protection even if it is “transitory and minor” or episodic. In this instance, Gogos’ episode of ‘very high’ blood pressure and intermittent blindness substantially impaired two major life activities: his circulatory function and eyesight.”

Further, Gogos was fired after an incident in January 2013 where shortly after arriving at work he realized that his right eye was red, and he received permission from his supervisor to leave work to seek immediate medical treatment. When he was leaving, he saw his general foreman and told him that he was going to the hospital, saying, “my health is not very good lately.” The foreman then immediately fired him.

The court explained that the blood-pressure spike and intermittent blindness were covered under the amended law even though they occurred during a single episode. “[T]he relevant issue is whether, despite their short duration in this case, Gogos’ higher-than-usual blood pressure and vision loss substantially impaired a major life activity when they occurred,”

Because of the substantial impairment, Gogos had adequately alleged a protected disability and was allowed to move forward with his claim of disability discrimination against his employer.

For more information or if you believe that you may have been discriminated against because of a disability, please contact the top Georgia disability discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for to schedule a case evaluation.