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Periodic depression may not be ADA condition

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Do you have an employee who sometimes becomes depressed and needs FMLA leave on an intermittent basis to deal with flare-ups? If so, he’s not necessarily disabled under the ADA.

Merely being eligible for intermittent FMLA leave isn’t enough to trigger ADA protection, and the worker may not be entitled to additional reasonable accommodations.

Recent case: Andrew had difficulty dealing with his son’s death and became depressed, especially around important dates like his son’s birthday and the anniversary of his death.

When he became depressed, he asked for FMLA leave, which he took intermittently.

Otherwise, he was able to function normally at work and in his other daily activities.

Andrew sued over alleged disability discrimination when he was passed over for a promotion.

His employer argued that Andrew wasn’t disabled and therefore couldn’t have been discriminated against because of a disability. The employer also pointed out that whenever Andrew needed time off for depression, he got FMLA leave.

The court agreed that Andrew wasn’t disabled since his depression was short-lived. His case was dismissed. (Latta v. Edgar Thompson, No. 2:11-CV-1622, WD PA, 2013)

Final note: A serious health condition under the FMLA can be temporary and of short duration. An ADA disability must be more per­­manent and substantially impact a major life function.

Thus, it’s possible for an ADA disability to trigger FMLA leave, but not all FMLA-triggering health conditions are ­disabilities.

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