American with Disabilities Act (ADA)
ADA was enacted into law to avoid discrimination against disabled employees. Today, there are volumes of books written on the topic that gives every labor law firm a headache just knowing the basics. It is therefore perfectly understandable how this area of law can trip the unwary business owner who has little or no knowledge of the law.
What makes the law so hard to understand is not what it tried to do, but how the federal regulators have dealt with it. For example, the EEOC's regulations do not list any specific physical impairment that would come under the ADA definition. Rather, the EEOC emphasizes that the ADA, like the Rehabilitation Act, does not adopt a ''laundry list'' approach, listing impairments that could be considered ''disabilities'' under the statute. In other words, the determination of whether an individual has a disability ''is not necessarily based on the name or diagnosis of the impairment the person has.'' Rather, it is based ''on the effect of that impairment on the life of the individual.''
Consequently, an impairment that is a disability for one person may not be for another. The determination, according to the EEOC, will depend ''on the stage of the disease or disorder, the presence of other impairments that combine to make the impairment disabling, or any number of other factors.'' For example, a person diagnosed with cancer may be able to perform his or her job functions and not be otherwise limited in any life activities. Such a person would therefore not be considered disabled under the first prong of the definition of ''disability.''
At the same time, EEOC offers a laundry list of commonly recognized disabilities. EEOC provided the following list of “commonly disabling impairments as part of its Interpretive Guidance to the proposed regulations, which included: - Orthopedic, visual, speech, and hearing impairments; - Tuberculosis; - HIV infection;8 - AIDS; - Cerebral palsy; - Epilepsy; - Muscular dystrophy; - Multiple sclerosis; - Cancer;9 - Heart disease;10 and - Diabetes.11 This list and the Commission's discussion entitled ''Frequently Disabling Impairments'' in the proposed regulations were deleted from the final regulations issued by the EEOC. According to the Commission, this deletion was done in order to ''avoid confusion.''12
Apparently, the EEOC was concerned that the list could be misinterpreted as implying that an individual who has one or more of the listed impairments would automatically be considered an individual with a disability. In interpreting the definition of ''disability'' under the ADA, courts have found a wide variety of conditions and impairments as meeting the statutory requisites. For example, Temporal Mandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ) has been recognized as a disabling condition substantially restricting a person's ability to perform such major life activities as working, eating and sleeping. Emotional conditions, such as anxiety and depression, also have been recognized as disabilities under the ADA.
Employee leasing companies are constantly updating their knowledge of ADA and are therefore better equipped to help their clients.