On May 15, 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") published guidance ("Guidance") on how the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") applies to job applicants and employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and intellectual disabilities. The Guidance is provided primarily in a Q&A format and is meant to assist employers in determining how the foregoing medical conditions should be treated under the ADA's expanded definition of disability. The Guidance can be found at: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm.
In 2008, the ADA Amendments Act ("ADAAA") made it easier for individuals with disabilities to obtain protection under the ADA. The Guidance addresses medical conditions that may not have fallen under the previous definition of a disability but that fit within the expanded definition under the ADAA.
The Guidance is broken down into eight sections, with the four most relevant sections being: (1) general information about the various medical conditions; (2) when and to what extent an employer may obtain, use and disclose medical information; (3) what types of accommodations employees may need; and (4) safety concerns associated with the conditions.
In the medical information section, the Guidance discusses what an employer may request from (1) job applicants, both before and after a conditional offer of employment is made, and (2) from its employees. The Guidance also addresses what questions are permissible when an individual voluntarily provides information concerning a medical condition.
The accommodation section provides examples of the types of accommodations employees may need for each of the subject medical conditions, as well as procedural aspects of granting/denying accommodations. For example the Guidance addresses whether an employer must provide more than one accommodation for the same disability.
The safety concerns section discusses the "direct threat" defense. Under that defense, an employer may exclude an individual from a particular job based on his/her disability if the individual poses a direct threat to himself/herself and/or other employees and if the risk cannot be eliminated or reduced through a reasonable accommodation. The Guidance specifically addresses problems associated with epilepsy and diabetes, such a seizures, which potentially pose a threat to safety.
As with all EEOC interpretation, the Guidance lacks the force of law; however, it shows employers how the EEOC will view various situations when investigating a charge of discrimination.