Definitions of major life activity under ADA guidelines are ever expanding

by on January 21, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Definition changes in ADA regulations

If you encounter employees that need dialysis for kidney failure, you should know that they’re considered disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

That’s because an appeals court recently reversed a lower-court decision and held that “eliminating bodily wastes” constitutes a “major life activity” under ADA guidelines and thus ADA law applies to people on dialysis.

The employee, who filed an ADA lawsuit, suffered from critical kidney failure and went for dialysis 12 hours a day three times a week. He claimed disability discrimination because his employer passed him over for promotion due to his disability.

A federal court dismissed the suit. But an appeals court said the employee had a strong case that should be tried.

The American Disabilities Act says a person is disabled if he or she is substantially impaired in performing a major life activity.

But ADA law doesn’t define the term, so the courts have had to search. In that search such activities as reading have been ruled in, and activities like driving ruled out. Certain core activities like seeing, hearing, walking, working, and eating fall under the definition; and now, eliminating bodily wastes.

ADA Compliance Notes

The Americans with Disabilities Act specifies that a disabled worker must be able to do a job with or without reasonable accommodation. Twelve hours a week of dialysis may be a hardship for some companies, particularly small ones. Thus ADA compliance may not be considered reasonable. But consult a lawyer before denying ADA accommodation.

Cite: Heiko v. Colombo Savings Bank, No. 04-2046, 4th Cir., 1/10/06.

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