Temporary condition might be disability if severe enough

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in Firing,Human Resources

The ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against applicants or employees with disabilities. Typically, only permanent conditions count.

But not always. Some temporary medical conditions also can constitute disabilities if they are severe enough at the time the condition exists. For example, while an employee with a broken arm is clearly only temporarily disabled and not entitled to ADA protection, someone with severe depression probably is disabled. That’s true despite the fact that some depressed individuals recover. In fact, an employee who has since recovered can still sue for discrimination that happened when he was depressed.

Recent case: Former probation officer Sam Murry sued the Michigan Department of Corrections for violating his ADA rights. He claimed the department fired him because of his disability—severe depression. After his dismissal, Murry responded well to therapy and medication. His doctors later explained that he suffered from anxiety and depression for just three months and “treatment was rendered during these months with full recovery.”

The Department of Corrections argued that because Murry recovered from his depression relatively quickly, he had no standing to bring an ADA claim of disability. The court said the speed with which he got better did not matter. The question was whether he was disabled at the time he was discharged. The court said Murry should have a chance to convince a jury that he was disabled at the time he was fired and that the firing was evidence of discrimination. (Murry v. Michigan Department of Corrections, No. 07-14126, ED MI, 2008)

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