In many situations, workers may sustain certain types of injuries or have
a legally defined disability, but still be able to perform many of the
functions of their job with some slight adjustments. The Americans with
Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) and the American with Disabilities
Act Amendments Act (the “ADAAA”) are designed to protect these
workers and help them keep their jobs.
Specifically, the ADA and the ADAAA make discrimination against “qualified
individuals with a disability” in the terms and conditions of employment
illegal. This generally means that 1) if you are a “qualified individual”
and 2) you have a disability, that your employer can’t fire you
or take other negative action against you and that where reasonable, your
employer must try to take actions to accommodate your needs.
If you have questions about the ADA/ADAAA or believe that you may have
been discriminated against, it is important to consult with a skilled
Georgia disability discrimination attorney right away.
A recent case –
McMillan v. N.Y.C.– looked at just what accommodations an employer must make when an
employee has a disability. In this instance, a schizophrenic employee
was chronically late, but the employer failed to adjust the work hours
to “accommodate” the employee.
Whenever the ADA/ADAAA is involved, the first question to address is does
the worker have a disability? A disability is defined as 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. Remember, the definition of a disability under the ADA is
a legal one, not a medical one.
Here, the worker in question suffered from schizophrenia, a psychiatric
condition that substantially limits day-to-day functions and is covered
by the ADA. Despite the psychiatric condition, the employee was able to
control his condition as long as he took medication. However, the medication
made him groggy in the mornings and as a result, he was often late. Although
he requested a later start time, his employer denied the request.
The court next considered whether being on time was an “essential
job function.” Because the employee worked for the city, which allowed
flex time and had been allowed to arrive later for years, the court reasoned
that being on time was not essential to performing his job. The next step
then was to determine whether with a “reasonable accommodation”
the worker could perform his job.
Here, the court determined that not enough facts were on the record to
make a final decision, and that a previous court ruling dismissing the
case was in error. As a result, the court decided that the case should
be allowed to continue in order to determine whether it was reasonable
and not overly burdensome to adjust the employee’s hours so that
he could both come in and leave later in the day.
Just who is protected by the ADA/ADAAA and under what circumstances is
not always clear-cut. It is often determined on a case-by-case basis.
If you believe that you may have been discriminated against due to a disability,
please discuss your case with a Georgia disability discrimination lawyers
from Buckley Beal LLP in an
initial case evaluation.