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Disability Discrimination Attorney Top Answers: Are temporary disabilities covered under the ADA? Can my employer refuse to accommodate me if I’m temporarily injured? Can I be fired for a temporary disability? Am I disabled?

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Individuals who have lived their entire life with a debilitating disease or physical impairment? Yes. People who have suffered a tragic accident with a permanent injury? Of, course. What about those of us who will recover from a severe injury only after a long and arduous rehabilitation? For disability discrimination purposes, we turn to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the courts for guidance in answering this question.

Under the ADA a person is disabled if they suffer from a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of their major life activities—walking for instance. The ADA prevents covered employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with a disability. A qualified individual with a disability is someone that can perform the essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodation; and, an employer must make a reasonable accommodation for a known disability unless that accommodation would impose an undue burden on the employer.

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In 2009 Congress amended the ADA. Recently, in Summers v. Altarum Institute, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that under the amended ADA the term “disability” could include temporary disabilities.

In Summers, Carl Summers fell off a train while traveling a long distance to his assigned place of work. He severely injured both legs in the fall and, if he had surgery, took medication, and went to physical therapy, it would be at least seven months before he could walk again. Without the surgery, meds, and therapy Carl would be out of work for at least a year.

Carl took it upon himself to suggest a solution and offered to work remotely until he could work again on site. But, instead of engaging him and working out a compromise, the employer told Carl to take short-term disability and then fired him. Believing that this was a wrongful termination, Carl took matters into his own hands again, enlisted the help of an experienced employment discrimination attorney, and sued his employer for firing him because he was disabled under the ADA and failing to accommodate his disability.

The court determined that, as recently amended, the ADA should be broadly interpreted and sufficiently severe impairments of short duration may be considered disabilities. Carl’s injuries were clearly severe enough to constitute a disability under the amended ADA because he was substantially limited in his major life activity of walking for at least seven months.

Employers must make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees. The decision in Summers is a positive sign that even temporarily disabled employees will be included under the umbrella of protection afforded by the ADA. What is disheartening is that employers like Altarum that refuse to compromise with disabled employees willing to work still exist. If your employer is discriminating against you because you are disabled, even temporarily, then take matters into your own hands like Carl Summers did and contact an employment discrimination attorney.

If you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. The best option is not to wait. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disables employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio law.


The materials available at the top of this page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “how do I get a work accommodation for my disability?”, “am I disabled under the ADA?”, “what should I do if…” or “can my boss fired me for …”, it would be best for you to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to disability discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, attorney Brian Spitz or any individual attorney.


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