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Temporary Illness or Injury is not Protected by ADA

In order to be protected by the various federal anti-discrimination statutes, employees must meet certain requirements depending on the statute. For protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you must have a qualifying disability and the term “disability” has a statutory definition. One of the common misconceptions that many employees have is that any illness or injury is protected as long as it requires you to miss work. That is not the case.

Francis v. Hartford Board of Education

In a recent case, Francis v. Hartford Board of Education, the plaintiff worked as an Assistant Principal at a middle school when she suffered two separate workplace injuries. She alleges that she was denied a reasonable accommodation for those injuries. However, the court determined that she did not have a disability as defined by the ADA.

Specifically, the Plaintiff injured her shoulder and her knee on two separate occasions and was released from restrictions from each injury after only a few months. As the court pointed out, the injuries were temporary and too minor to be qualified as disabilities protected under the ADA. She was only under restriction for her shoulder injury for two months and only five months for the knee injury. When she did have limitations, they were relatively minor, including lifting her right arm and climbing stairs. In prior cases, courts have found a temporary impairment of only seven months was too short to qualify as “substantially limiting.”

Protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against “qualified” individuals with disabilities with regard to employment decisions. The ADA applies only to employers with 15 or more employees. The prohibition extends to job application procedures, hiring and firing practices and policies, promotions, discipline, compensation, job training and many other “terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

Along with prohibiting discrimination, the ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to qualified employees whom they know have a disability. A reasonable accommodation is simply an adjustment or modification an employer provides to enable individuals with disabilities to have equal employment opportunities.

How is a Disability Defined Under the ADA? The ADA only provides protection to qualified individuals. This means you must meet certain requirements in order to be protected. An individual with a disability is defined as someone who:

• Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;

• Has a record of such an impairment; or

• Is regarded as having such an impairment.

In order to be considered a “qualified” employee or applicant with a disability, you must be able to “perform the essential functions” of the job, with or without a “reasonable accommodation.”


If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Wrady & Michel, LLC. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!