An Insulin Dependent Worker Protected by The ADA

An Insulin Dependent Worker Protected by The ADA: The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 went into effect January 1, 2009. There may already be some clarification on how this act may affect those who have insulin dependent diabetes. We’ll explore this new development a little later in this article.

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) provided this summary of the new ADAAA rules in October of 2008 to help clarify their position on the subject.

The Act makes important changes to the definition of the term “disability” by rejecting the holdings in several Supreme Court decisions and portions of EEOC’s ADA regulations. The Act retains the ADA’s basic definition of “disability” as an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. However, it changes the way that these statutory terms should be interpreted in several ways. Most significantly, the Act:

  • Directs EEOC to revise that portion of its regulations defining the term “substantially limits”;
  • Expands the definition of “major life activities” by including two non-exhaustive lists:
  • The first list includes many activities that the EEOC has recognized (e.g., walking) as well as activities that EEOC has not specifically recognized (e.g., reading, bending, and communicating);
  • The second list includes major bodily functions (e.g., “functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions”);
  • States that mitigating measures other than “ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses” shall not be considered in assessing whether an individual has a disability;
  • Clarifies that an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active;
  • Provides that an individual subjected to an action prohibited by the ADA (e.g., failure to hire) because of an actual or perceived impairment will meet the “regarded as” definition of disability, unless the impairment is transitory and minor;
  • Provides that individuals covered only under the “regarded as” prong are not entitled to reasonable accommodation; and
  • Emphasizes that the definition of “disability” should be interpreted broadly.

A recent ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals may have helped provide some clarity on how the new ADA Amendments Act affects those who have diabetes.

Larry Rohr had been diagnosed as an insulin dependant Type 2 diabetic back in 2000. His employer, Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District of Arizona, had provided some accommodations for Rohr that seemed to be in line with the ADA guidelines. Because Rohr’s condition required strict adherence to insulin injections and food intake his doctor requested Rohr be removed from a travel schedule. Salt River determined these accommodations rendered Rohr unable to fulfill essential functions of his job. They offered Rohr, “another position within Salt River that would be consistent with his limitations; applying for disability payments; or taking early retirement.”

Rohr took Salt River to court claiming discrimination under ADA rules. The court recently ruled in favor of Rohr. The ruling effectively means, “Being an insulin-dependent diabetic can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

This ruling was not specifically in support of the new ADAAA, but because it was a ruling derived from existing ADA rules it provides precedent for other diabetics who may face similar circumstances.