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ADA and Obvious Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) law ensures employees are protected in the workplace and accommodated by their employer when they are working with a disability. In most cases, if an employee asks for a certain accommodation, his or her employer is required by law to it. If the employee fails to make a request, an employer is usually not responsible for specific accommodations, though there are instances in which an employer could be responsible for providing an accommodation, even if it was not requested.

In one recent example, Kowitz v. Trinity Health, an employee who worked for Trinity Health as a respiratory therapist and lead technician had a degenerative spinal disease. The employee took a 12-week FMLA leave because of the disease and returned to work with restrictions from her doctor that limited her work hours and her ability to lift weight.

During her time away for FMLA leave, Trinity updated its requirements of her position to include up to date CPR training. The employee was unable to complete CPR training immediately due to her work limitations. Because of this, Trinity terminated the employee, citing a lapse in CPR certification as the reason.

The employee filed an ADA lawsuit against Trinity and won. The court determined that despite not having specifically requesting an official accommodation to have her CPR requirement temporarily waived, her notification that she could not obtain the certification until she was released from physical therapy by a doctor implied a request for accommodation.

Employer Awareness Matters

What does this mean for employees who feel they have been discriminated against or who were not properly accommodated in the workplace because of a disability?

Essentially, the court is not going to require you to have made an official request specifically for accommodation, if it can be proven your employer was aware of your situation. It’s your employer’s responsibility to determine what accommodations are needed, even if you, as the employee, do not come forward making a request.

This is the case regardless whether a disability is permanent or, as was the case noted above, a disability is temporary. If your employer is aware of your circumstances, but fails to act in the appropriate manner deemed legal by the ADA or takes action against you because of your limitations, it is the employer who is responsible. For more information about the ADA, visit the official ADA.GOV website.

Do you believe you were treated unfairly in the workplace due to a permanent or temporary disability? There are laws in place that protect you and ensure you receive the accommodations you need to perform your job. We’re always happy to answer your questions or hear your concerns about an event or circumstance you believe could be unlawful. For more information, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to discuss your situation.


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