In Hoffman v. Carefirst of Fort Wayne, Inc., d/b/a Advanced Healthcare, 2010 WL 3522573 (N.D. Ind. 2010), the court held that, under the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), an employee with cancer in remission was "disabled." In addition, the court determined the employer could not establish as a matter of law that the employee's proposed accommodation was unreasonable or would have presented an undue hardship for the employer.

Hoffman was a service technician who traveled to different patients' locations by van and supplied them with home medical devices such as oxygen and wheelchairs. Hoffman was diagnosed with Stage III renal cancer and underwent surgery to remove his left kidney. After his surgery, Hoffman returned to work with no restrictions on his ability to work or the hours he could work.  

Approximately one year later, and because of a new contract with a customer, the employer told all of its service technicians that they would need to work substantial overtime. The next day, Hoffman gave the employer a handwritten note from his doctor stating Hoffman could only work eight hours a day, five days a week because of his diagnosis of Stage III renal cancer. In response, the employer initially told Hoffman that he could resign or work the overtime, but later told Hoffman that he could avoid the overtime by working out of a different location (he had been working from a home office). Hoffman refused to report to the other location (because it would have required him to commute two hours per day) and claimed that he had been fired.

Hoffman filed suit arguing that he was a qualified individual with a disability  under the ADAAA and that he was unlawfully terminated when the employer refused to allow him to work a 40-hour week from his home office as a reasonable accommodation. The employer argued that Hoffman was not "disabled" because Hoffman's cancer was in remission and did not substantially limit a major life activity, and in any event,  permitting Hoffman to work 40-hour weeks from the other location was a reasonable accommodation.    

The court held that, given the language of the ADAAA and the accompanying proposed regulations, Hoffman was disabled even though his cancer was in remission. The court observed that, under the ADAAA, "an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active," 42 U.S.C. § 12102(4)(D), which certainly would be the case with Hoffman's cancer. The court also relied on the EEOC's proposed regulations, which specifically provide that cancer is a type of impairment that will consistently meet the definition of disability because it substantially limits major life activities such as normal cell growth. 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(g)(5).   

Finally, the court denied the employer's motion for summary judgment on the reasonable accommodation issue. The court determined that there were disputed issues of material fact as to whether allowing Hoffman to continue working 40 hours a week from his home office would have created an undue hardship on the employer. In so finding, the court noted that the employer had failed to provide any evidence as to how much the accommodation would have cost, how it would have affected the other service technicians' workloads, and whether there were enough customers in the area where Hoffman lived to justify working from his home office.  

This decision highlights that, under the ADAAA, the focus is no longer on whether an employee is disabled or how an impairment affects an employee's daily life. Instead, given the broad new definition of disability, many impairments will constitute a disability and the case likely will turn on whether the employer reasonably offered to accommodate the employee or can prove that a reasonable accommodation would have imposed an undue burden.