Temporary Condition Gets Disability Discrimination Protection

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An auditor’s employer failed to accommodate him when he damaged his spine. The employee, Ronald Hodges, purported that his disability limited his ability to sit, work, sleep and concentrate.  After his doctor recommended time off from work due to the treatment’s recovery period, Hodges asked for unpaid leave. His request was denied and was offered only marginal accommodations, such as being able to stand, stretch, and walk around to avoid long periods of sitting.  His supervisor also placed him on “absent without leave” status when he failed to show up to work and was terminated less than two weeks later. Hodges sued his employer for discriminatory discharge and failure-to-accommodate.  The employer argued that because his condition was considered a temporary impairment (one that has an expected duration of under six months), Hodges was not deemed disabled.  However, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADAAA, a temporary impairment is considered a disability if it “significantly limits” major life activities (i.e. sleeping, sitting, concentrating). The court ultimately sided with Hodges, finding that he was in fact disabled and that his failure-to-accommodate claim was a valid one.

By Brendan Schechter, Paralegal. Posted May 13, 2014

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