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Understand the ADA basics: Diagnosis not always equal to disability

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

We hear and read that Americans are developing diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and other health problems at an alarming rate.

But it doesn’t follow that large segments of the workforce are disabled and entitled to accommodations for their ills. The ADA protects only employees and applicants who have medical conditions that substantially impair major life activities such as walking, talking, breathing, working or taking care of oneself.

In other words, ill and disabled are not synonymous.

Recent case:
Alexis Sicilia, who has epilepsy, worked for UPS in Florida for almost 10 years before he told anyone at the company. He informed management only after he had a seizure while at work. The seizure lasted just a few minutes, and he quickly got back to work.

Sicilia had a similar seizure two months later, but again lost no work time. His doctor, however, recommended he not work the night shift because it might be aggravating his condition.

Sicilia then asked to be accommodated with a day-shift position. UPS sent him home because his doctor had told the company he should not work the night shift. The company told him to look for open positions on the day shift. Sicilia tried, but employees with more seniority got the plum assignments.

Sicilia sued, alleging UPS had failed to accommodate his disability.

But the court tossed out the case. It said Sicilia wasn’t disabled even though he had epilepsy. He had successfully controlled his condition for years. He was able to work a wide range of jobs. He simply didn’t meet the definition of “disabled” and therefore wasn’t entitled to any accommodations. (Sicilia v. United Parcel Service, No. 07-15077, 11th Cir., 2008)

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