ARE DISABLING BUT TEMPORARY INJURIES PROTECTED BY THE ADA?
No, they are not. So, if an employee traveling to work fell and broke both legs, forcing him into bed for six weeks and limiting his walking for seven more months was fired due to being unavailable to work before 2008, the ADA did nothing for him. But, the ADA was replaced with the Americans With Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), and under the new statute the employee is protected.
A federal Court of Appeals faced those facts last week and decided that the amended law does protect not just employees with temporary versus permanent disabilities, but also those disabled by injury rather than a medical impairment, such as a birth defect or disease. The decision is known as Summers v. Altarium Institute Corp. (4th Cir.1/23/14), and the court went to great lengths to make clear that not only the amended law, but also EEOC regulations leave no doubt that a temporarily disabled employee is covered. Consequently, if you represent an employee in that situation, the employer is required to treat the employee as disabled and the employee is, in all likelihood, entitled to a reasonable accommodation for the duration of the disability.
The employer argued that because the employee could get around in a wheelchair he was not disabled. But the court pronounced that in determining whether someone is disabled an employer must decide whether the employee is substantially limited without taking into account that the disability can be mitigated somewhat or totally by a reasonable accommodation.