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Heart condition isn’t always an ADA disability

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in Firing,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

It’s understandable that someone who has had a heart attack and taken time off to recover might assume that he’s disabled under the terms of the ADA. That’s not always the case.

As is true of other conditions, it’s only a disability if the heart attack’s residual effects substantially impair a major life function such as breathing, walking, talking or caring of oneself. If there are no other lifestyle restrictions central to the way most people live, chances are the person is not disabled.

Each heart patient must be assessed on his or her individual condition.

Recent case: Dale Krumheuer, who worked as a claims adjuster for the risk management company GAB Robins North America, was terminated at age 50. In the months before his termination, he had taken a considerable amount of FMLA leave to recover from a heart attack.

He first returned to work part time, eventually going full time without any medical restrictions on his ability to work.

According to GAB Robins, Krumheuer’s termination was part of a reduction in force due to the economic downturn. The company let go 80 employees nationwide, including two in the local office. Management said Krumheuer and the other terminated employee were selected because they were the poorest performers.

Krumheuer sued, alleging he had been picked to be terminated because he was disabled and had used FMLA leave.

GAB Robins challenged him to show he was disabled. Krumheuer testified that he was not allowed to perform some household chores like shoveling snow, cleaning gutters and raking leaves. Plus, his doctors said he could not go fly-fishing for an entire year.

The court said he wasn’t disabled based on these restrictions and dismissed the case. (Krumheuer v. GAB Robins North America, No. 1:09-CV-00582, ND OH, 2010)

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