• Seventh Circuit Broadens Scope of Physical Conditions Covered by the ADA
  • June 4, 2014
  • Law Firm: Heyl Royster Voelker Allen Professional Corporation - Peoria Office
  • Two recent decisions make clear that since the 2008 amendments to the ADA, employers must be even more careful when determining whether a condition is a disability or not, and what - if any - employment actions may be taken.

    First, in Spurling v. C & M Fine Pack, Inc., 739 F.3d 1055 (7th Cir. 2014), a company fired the plaintiff after he repeatedly fell asleep while on the job. The Seventh Circuit reversed the trial court's finding and held that the employer, given its notice of the employee's potential physical condition, should have explored possible accommodations, including providing additional time for the employee to be medically evaluated. Implicitly, the court takes the position that employers must be more cognizant and careful when dealing with employees who report that a medical condition is impacting their ability to work.

    While the decision in Spurling requires employers to be more careful when a medical condition is reported to them, the decision in Gogos v. AMS Mechanical Systems, Inc., 737 F.3d 1170 (7th Cir. 2013), shows how far the door has been opened to what qualifies as a disability under the 2008 amendments to the ADA. The 2008 amendments expanded the law and recognized for the first time that impairment could rise to the level of a protected "disability" even if it was transitory, minor, or temporary in nature. Indeed, a condition that is episodic, in remission, or managed by medicine may rise to the level of a disability if the condition substantially limits a major life activity when active. In Gogos, the court held that the plaintiff's single incident of a blood pressure spike and intermittent blindness was covered by the ADA. In doing so, the court emphasized that the relevant issue is not the duration of the incident, but rather whether the condition substantially impairs a major life activity when the incident occurred.