Discrimination Attorney’s Top Answers: Is high blood pressure a disability under the ADA? Can I sue my employer if they fire me for seeking medical treatment for my high blood pressure? What is a disability under the ADA? How do I find a disability discrimination attorney?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prevents employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with a disability in the terms and conditions of employment. An individual is disabled if a medical, physiological, or psychiatric condition substantially limits a major life activity. Prior to the amendment of the ADA, temporary conditions were not covered. But, the ADA as amended contains an expanding definition of disability to include temporary illnesses, diseases, or conditions. Our disability discrimination attorneys have blogged about obesity being a disability; Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) being a disability; odor sensitivity being a disability; morning sickness being a disability; and short stature being a disability under the ADA.
So it should come as no surprise that a recent appellate court decision held that high blood pressure could be a disability under the ADA as amended. In that case, Anthimos Gogos, a welder with 45 years of experience, had high blood pressure that he treated with medication. Early one morning, about two months after being hired, Gogos’ blood pressure spiked and his eye turned red. So, he asked his supervisor if he could leave to seek immediate medical treatment. The supervisor allowed him to leave. However, as he was leaving, he told his general foreman he wasn’t feeling well and the foreman immediately fired him.
The lower court didn’t believe high blood pressure was a covered disability under the ADA. But, the appellate court disagreed finding that the ADA may protect someone with an impairment that is transitory and minor or episodic in nature if it is severe enough. The court focused on “whether, despite their short duration . . . Gogos’ higher than usual blood pressure and vision loss substantially impaired a major life activity when they occurred.” Further, the court of appeals held:
Gogos’s episode of a bloodpressure spike and vision loss are covered disabilities. He attributes both problems to his longstanding blood-pressure condition, and the ADA’s implementing regulation lists hypertension as an example of an “impairment that may be episodic.” Under the 2008 amendments, “[t]he fact that the periods during which an episodic impairment is active and substantially limits a major life activity may be brief or occur infrequently is no longer relevant to determining whether the impairment substantially limits a major life activity.” 29 C.F.R. Pt. 1630, App. at Section 1630.2(j)(1)(vii). Instead, the relevant issue is whether, despite their short duration in this case, Gogos’s higher-than-usual blood pressure and vision loss substantially impaired a major life activity when they occurred. See id. Construing the complaint generously and drawing reasonable inferences in Gogos’s favor, we conclude that they did. Gogos alleges that his episode of “very high” blood pressure and
intermittent blindness substantially impaired two major life activities: his circulatory function and eyesight. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2). Accordingly, he has alleged a covered disability.
Moreover, Gogos’s alleged chronic blood-pressure condition—for which he has taken medication for more than eight years—could also qualify as a disability. The amended ADA provides that when “determin[ing] whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity[,] the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures such as . . . medication” are not relevant. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(4)(E)(i)(I). The interpreting regulation explains the new law by way of an example directly on point here: “[S]omeone who began taking medication for hypertension before experiencing substantial limitations related to the impairment would still be an individual with a disability if, without the medication, he or she would now be substantially limited in functions of the cardiovascular or circulatory system.” 29 C.F.R. Pt. 1630, App. at Section 1630.2(j)(1)(vi). T
hus, even if Gogos had not experienced the episode of elevated blood pressure and vision loss, he could qualify as disabled due to his chronic blood pressure condition.
Thus, Mr. Gogos had alleged a disability under the ADA and the appellate court allowed him to move forward with his wrongful termination case.
Employers should not be allowed to trade your health for their profits. Even temporary disabilities, if they are severe enough, may be covered by the ADA. If you think your employer has discriminated against you because you suffer from a disability please contact an experienced employment discrimination attorney.
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ccommodation 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.