Employees Suffering Temporary Disabilities May Be Protected Under the ADA Amendments Act

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is the first federal appeals court to apply the ADA Amendments Act’s “expanded definition of disability” to include temporary impairments, in a January 23rd ruling holding that a temporary impairment caused by an injury may be a covered “disability” under the ADA Amendments Act if it’s “sufficiently severe” to substantially limit a major life activity (Summers v. Altarum Inst., Corp., 4th Cir., No. 13-1645, 1/23/14).

The Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s dismissal of an ADA wrongful termination claim, in which an employee of the Altarum Institute was terminated less than two months after sustaining serious injuries to both legs that have prevented him from walking normally for at least seven months.

The Fourth Circuit said that the ADA Amendments Act evidences Congressional intent for the ADA’s definition of disability to “be construed in favor of broad coverage” to the “maximum extent permitted by its items.”

The court said that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in its final regulations implementing the ADA Amendments Act (57 DLR AA-1, 3/24/11; 57 DLR C-1, 3/24/11), therefore reasonably interpreted the act to provide that “effects lasting or expected to last fewer than six months can be substantially limiting” for purposes of proving actual disability.

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