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Cancer in Remission Is a Disability under the ADAAA

In one of the first decisions to interpret the new Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois found that employees with cancer in remission are “disabled” under the Act.

Stephen Hoffman worked as a service technician for Advanced Healthcare.  The Company was aware that Hoffman was in remission from renal cancer.  Hoffman worked from home eight hours a day, five days a week.  The Company decided that all service technicians needed to increase their hours to between sixty five and seventy hours per week.  Hoffman informed them that he was unable to work such long hours.  He provided his supervisors with a doctor’s note limiting his hours to forty per week.  The Company refused to accept this, and alternatively asked Hoffman to come to work at the office instead of working from home.  Since this would add two to three hours of commuting time to his day, Hoffman refused to do so.  When Hoffman and the Company failed to agree upon his schedule, Hoffman stopped working.

Hoffman claimed he was fired because of his disability, in violation of the ADAAA.  The Company argued cancer in remission was not a disability.  The Court held that under the 2009 amendments to the ADA, cancer in remission is considered a “disability” and employees in remission should be protected.  The ADAAA states “an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.”  The Court said the Company failed to provide Hoffman with a reasonable accommodation, and could not prove Hoffman’s limitation to forty hours per week would negatively affect the Company’s business.  Hoffman was not required to show he was substantially limited in a major life activity while in remission.

This decision confirms the broadened scope of who is considered disabled under the ADA and leads the way for other similarly situated employees.  Employers must document efforts to accommodate such employee, unless the accommodation would place an undue hardship on the company and/or other employees. Brody and Associates regularly provides counsel on the ADA, as well as other civil rights issues and employment laws in general.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.965.0560.