DEPRESSED ABOUT FACING MORE DISABILITY CLAIMS UNDER THE ADAAA? AT LEAST IT’S NO LONGER WINTER

In January of 2009, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) went into effect and significantly changed the disability and accommodation environment for employers.

Previously, it wasn’t always easy for Plaintiffs to prevail in cases alleging disability discrimination, either because of mitigating measures, because a condition was episodic, because the condition didn’t substantially limit a major life activity (as the Americans With Disabilities Act requires) or for some other reason.

Under the ADAAA, though, many medical conditions more easily qualify as disabilities under the law. This includes a longer list of disabling conditions specifically set out in the ADAAA, as well as others that previously may not have been thought of as disabilities, but now must be seriously evaluated as a potential disability under the Act.

Like SAD, for example.

SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is essentially a depressive condition caused by limited exposure to daylight in the winter months. While Depression has long been considered a recognized disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, SAD is generally new to the disability landscape, and it’s one of many previously ‘under-the-radar’ medical conditions that employers can no longer just brush aside thanks to the expansive provisions of the ADAAA.

Here’s an interesting piece on SAD from the Chicago Tribune. It talks about the condition and what employers are doing more of to accommodate it in recent months:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/bal-gl.hs.blues25feb25,0,5972894.story

As the article points out, disability claims have been on the rise in recent years. Over the last year, the passage of the ADAAA has made it even easier to make out such claims. Employers need to be in tune to the fact that many conditions not previously thought to be disabilities in the last 15 years under the Americans with Disabilities Act – like SAD – may very well qualify for accommodation and other protection under the current law.

Mario Bordogna represents clients in all aspects of labor and employment law in state and federal courts. Mr. Bordogna concentrates his practice in the areas of employment litigation, employment discrimination, workers’ compensation, employment counseling, and labor–management relations.
 
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