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 The Buckley Law Firm, LLC for an immediate consultation.