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Rehabilitation Act – ADA

In the Does the Federal Government Consider Me Disabled (Part I)? we laid out the definitions of disabled under the Rehabilitation Act. In this post we will focus on what those definitions mean in the real world. Interestingly, the ADA was recently amended by what is called the ADAAA in 2009. This amendment has made the practical reality of what it takes to be considered disabled more liberal and inclusive. Let’s break down the definition of who is considered disabled for a disability discrimination step by step:

  1. Disability – Prior to Jan. 1, 2009, a substantial portion of disability discrimination litigation, if not the vast majority of such litigation, revolved around the determination of whether the complainant was a qualified individual with a disability. While the ADAAA does not eliminate entirely that litigation, it does seek to greatly reduce that litigation.
  2. A physical impairment: This does not have to be as serious as cancer or a stroke. The official definition is below:

Physical: Any disorder or condition, disfigurement, or anatomical loss (missing limb, etc.) affecting one or more body systems, such as neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, immune, circulatory, hemic, lymphatic, skin, and endocrine; or

Any mental or psychological disorder: This is a very interesting area encompassing depression, anxiety disorders, and alcoholism — I intend to follow up in a later blog post. Many supervisors and managers do not take this type of disability seriously, especially if they themselves have not suffered from one or been close to anyone who has suffered from one of these disorders, and this is the source of a lot of litigation.

An intellectual disability (formerly termed “mental retardation”), organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.” -29 CFR Section 1630.2(h).

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Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative.

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