Disability Discrimination Based on Heart Conditions

Experienced Employment Law Attorneys Serving the Atlanta Area

Heart conditions are quite common. Unfortunately, they sometimes limit an individual’s ability to perform certain activities. Employers are not, however, allowed to discriminate against an employee based on a heart condition that qualifies as a disability under federal law, if the individual is able to perform the job either with or without a reasonable accommodation. If you have a question or concern involving this complex area, the employment law lawyers at the Atlanta firm of Mays & Kerr can counsel you.

Heart Conditions

Many Americans live with illnesses like congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and other conditions related to the heart. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 1.9% of adults younger than 55 years old have a history of chronic heart disease or stroke. Furthermore, about 720,000 Americans have heart attacks each year.

If an individual’s heart condition meets the requirements of a “disability,” he or she may be safeguarded from discrimination based on this illness under federal law.

Protections for Workers Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Employers with 15 or more employees are not allowed to take adverse actions against “qualified individuals” because of a disability during any point of the hiring process or employment. A “qualified individual” is someone who can perform the job’s essential functions, either with or without a reasonable accommodation.

A person has a “disability” under the ADA if he or she has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, is regarded by others as having such a condition, or has a past history of it. At one time, the Supreme Court had limited the definition of this term in a way that made it very difficult for many people to obtain the protection of the law. Congress responded by amending the ADA in 2008 to broaden the definition.

Since January 1, 2009, whether an impairment substantially limits a major life function is determined without regard to any mitigating or ameliorative measures the person may take. An individual does not, therefore, lose the protections of the ADA just because he or she has a condition that can be controlled with medication. Furthermore, if a person has an impairment that is episodic or in remission, he or she may still be a “qualified individual” under the ADA if the impairment would limit a major life function when in its active state.

Pursuing a Reasonable Accommodation

Employers must make reasonable accommodations to allow an individual with a disability to perform the job, but they are not required to do so if it would create an undue hardship on the operations of the business.

Reasonable accommodations will vary depending upon the details of the person’s impairment, the job, and the type of enterprise run by the employer. These arrangements may include providing parking close to the building, modifying the employee’s schedule, reducing physical activity, or changing the way a task is performed to make it less onerous.

Available Remedies

An individual who is the victim of disability discrimination in the workplace may be entitled to recover back pay, compensatory damages, and even punitive damages if a situation is especially egregious. Although it is often not the desired outcome, employees may also be entitled to reinstatement or an injunction.

The corresponding Georgia law, O.C.G.A. 34-6A-6, allows an aggrieved worker to potentially obtain an injunction or restraining order. The court is allowed to order the employer to hire or reinstate the employee or admit him or her into training programs. In a state law case, an individual may also be able to recover back pay, court costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Contact an Atlanta Lawyer for Advice on Disability Discrimination

The Atlanta attorneys at Mays & Kerr have a thorough knowledge of disability discrimination laws and how they can affect a business or an employee. If you have a legal issue that you would like to discuss with us, we will be happy to schedule a free appointment when we can discuss your rights and obligations. Call 1-877-986-5529 or contact us online today.