Yes, the ADA Requires a Person to Show They Have a Disability

By Eric B. Meyer

When the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) went into effect on January 1, 2009, the changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) emphasized construing the definition of “disability” to provide broad coverage of individuals to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA.

In other words, nowadays we’re all disabled.

However, if you’re going to take your employer to trial on a disability discrimination claim, you still need to show a “disability.”

Otherwise, the Americans with Disabilities Act would be the “Americans with Act” and that would be more confusing than The Royal Tenenbaums.

You need to discuss a reasonable accommodation

Just ask the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal, based in New Orleans, in this recent opinion:

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Although the text of the ADAAA expresses Congress’s intention to broaden the definition and coverage of the term “disability,” it in no way eliminated the term from the ADA or the need to prove a disability on a claim of disability discrimination. In other words, though the ADAAA makes it easier to prove a disability, it does not absolve a party from proving one.”

But, just because the Fifth Circuit is a stickler for the details, doesn’t mean that you should be in the workplace.

If an employee comes to you complaining of a bad back, or a sore wrist, or the like, sure, you can make them establish it medically. But, know that the burden of establishing a “disability” is low.

So, instead, focus on discussing with that individual a reasonable accommodation that will allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.

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