COULD ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE BE PROTECTED UNDER THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT?
The ADA was established to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not discriminated against. The ADA does not specifically list out disabilities that are covered; instead the ADA defines disability as, “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities…” The ADA also prohibits discrimination based on perceived disabilities that are thought to impair a person’s ability.
WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Alzheimer’s is a neurological disorder that interferes with memory and thinking; Alzheimer’s can be a slow developing disease. This slow onset means that an individual can be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and still be fully functioning without it interfering with their daily or work life.
WHAT IS AN ACCOMMODATION UNDER THE ADA?
An accommodation would adjust the employee’s work schedule, what they work on, the amount of responsibility they have, etc. to accommodate their disability. Employers are required to provide an accommodation unless it would cause and undue hardship for the employer. Whether or not an accommodation is an undue hardship is assessed on a case by case basis, therefore, what could be considered an undue hardship for one employer may not be for another employer.
IS AN ACCOMMODATION NECESSARY FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH ALZHEIMER’S UNDER ADA?
Cases involving mental impairments demonstrate that employers should tread carefully when dealing with employees with Alzheimer’s. The question under the ADA remains whether the person could perform the essential functions of the job with reasonable accommodation. A person who performs a repetitive job for example would be a potential candidate for reasonable accommodation, whereas a CEO experiencing mental symptoms of Alzheimer’s may not be. Employees must be evaluated on a case by case basis.