Diabetes May Now Be Covered Under The ADA
The United States Ninth Court Circuit of Appeals (Federal-covers the west coast but has national ramifications) has over turned a federal district court’s (in Arizona) decision that Larry Rohr, an employee of Salt River Project Agricutural Improvement and Power District, was not covered by the ADA because his diabetes was controllable. The higher court disagreed and noted that “diabetes is a physical impairment because it impacts the digestive, hemic and endocrine systems and eating is a major life activity.” The intial lawsuit has now been sent back down to the lower court for the case to be heard entirely on its merits.
The real issue at stake for employers is that they need to becareful when determining the “essential functions” of a given job. In Rohr’s case the employer accommodated him for a year with his work restrictions that he could no longer travel because of his strict medical and eating regimen and he could no longer pass a required annual respirator test, a major requirement of the job.
This is going to require employers to do a careful analysis of what constitutes an essential function using the criteria suggested by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Furthermore, under California law, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing on January 1, 2002, issued a directive that states if an employer even “perceives an individual to have a disability, the employer has to engage in an interactive discussion with the employee regarding a reasonable acommodation.” Rohr’s case, as noted, is out of Arizona but because it is a federal case, it won’t take long for California to pick up on it no matter the eventual outcome.
This case is particularly notable to those businesses (especially automobile dealerships) who have positions that require staff to use or pass annual tests lung capacity for the use of respirators. We have received inquiries along this nature over the last few years. As we all know, the laws are always changing! If you have any concerns about determing the essential functions of a job contact us.
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