Temporary Disability May Still Qualify for Protection Under the ADA

Long gone are the days of automatically challenging whether an employee truly is “disabled.”  As further proof of this maxim, in Summers v. Altarum Institute Corp. the Fourth Circuit (covering Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina) recently found in favor of an employee who’s employment was terminated when her temporary injury prevented her from working.  Turns out, this injury — even though temporary — qualified as a disability under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) because it substantially limited a major life activity and thus the termination was not lawful.  The key when dealing with someone who could possibly be disabled is that the focus should be on the interactive process- not challenging the disability.   Remember that employers are obliged to communicate about the limits imposed on the employee and to discuss possible accommodations, but are not required to automatically accept the accommodation requested by the disabled employee.