Disability Employment Attorney Best Answer: If I have a diagnosed medical condition like insomnia, does my employer have to make an accommodation for me so I can do my job? Can I be fired for being disabled? How do I find a disability discrimination attorney?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) an employer cannot discriminate against “a qualified individual on the basis of disability” in the “terms, conditions, [or] privileges of employment.” 42 U.S.C. §12112(a). The ADA also requires employers to accommodate disabled employees if the accommodation permits the employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job without creating undue hardship for the employer. Changing or adjusting an employee’s schedule is one type of reasonable accommodation.
To establish a prima facie case (initial things that must be shown) under the ADA, an employee must show that: (1) he or she is disabled; (2) he or she is otherwise qualified for the position with or without reasonable accommodation; (3) he or she suffered an adverse employment action; (4) the employer knew or had reason to know of the disability; and (5) he or she was replaced or the job remained open. Plant v. Morton Int’l Inc., 212 F.3d 929, 936 (6th Cir. 2000). But, what exactly does disabled mean?
According to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals a person is disabled under the ADA if a physical or mental impairment substantially limits one or more of their major life activities, the person has a record of the impairment, or the person’s employer regards them as having such impairment. Gruener v. Ohio Cas.Ins. Co., 510 F.3d 661, 664 (6th Cir. 2008); see also 42 U.S.C. §12112(2).
Is insomnia a disability under this definition? In Maes v. City of Espanola, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico considered this question and denied the City’s motion for summary judgment.
Ruby Maes worked for the city’s detention facility as a correctional officer. The facility runs a twelve-hour day shift from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and a twelve-hour graveyard shift from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. There are also standby, on-call rotations. Ruby started getting severe insomnia and migraines and was eventually diagnosed with depression. Her doctor stated it was the graveyard shift that caused her medical conditions and depression. The good doctor advised Ruby to stop working graveyard shifts and wrote a note to her supervisor explaining that she should not work full graveyard shifts. Her supervisor duly complied with the doctor’s orders and accommodated Ruby.
Everything was good until her supervisor was replaced. The new supervisor scheduled her on graveyard shifts and the on-call rotation — despite knowing about the doctor’s note. Eventually Ruby was called in for a graveyard shift while she was on call. She could not find a replacement but her supervisor (and his supervisor) told her to jeopardize her own health and work the shift anyway. Ruby rightfully refused, was forced to resign, and filed suit against the City for refusal to accommodate a disability and wrongful discharge violative of the ADA.
So, is Ruby a disabled person within the meaning of the ADA? The court said she might be, explaining:
Under the . . . ADAA, sleeping is listed as a major life activity, and numerous courts have held that an inability to sleep constitutes a disability. …Viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, the evidence shows that Plaintiff’s doctor diagnosed her with extreme insomnia and migraine headaches. When active, Plaintiff’s conditions interfered with her ability to sleep. A reasonable jury, therefore, could conclude that Plaintiff has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits the major life activity of sleeping.
The court also determined a jury could find if Ruby was reasonably accommodated (not work past 12:00 a.m.), she could perform the essential duties required of a corrections officer. Further, the evidence demonstrates that a reasonable jury could determine the City failed to reasonably accommodate Ruby’s known medical conditions and there’s no evidence showing that not scheduling Ruby on graveyard shifts would have caused the City an undue hardship.
This case is still pending, but it is strong evidence that some courts are rightfully expanding the meaning of disability under the ADA.
Having to live with a disability is difficult enough without worrying about the effect it may have on your job. 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. The Spitz 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 The Spitz Law Firm, attorney, Brian Spitz or any individual attorney.