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Disclaimer: The Treatise is based upon federal appellate court decisions from 1996 to 2008. We are currently in the process of updating the Treatise. Until that update is complete, it is possible that certain cases cited in the Treatise may no longer represent current law.

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Chapter 13 - Disability Discrimination
13.200 Disability
13.270 Requirement that disability be permanent or long-term

13.271 EEOC regulation

New law

The EEOC's revised Interpretative Guidance for 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j) provides:

Section 1630.2(j)(1)(ix): Effects of an Impairment Lasting Fewer Than Six Months Can Be Substantially Limiting

Section 1630.2(j)(1)(ix) states: “The six-month `transitory' part of the `transitory and minor' exception to `regarded as' coverage in § 1630.2(l) does not apply to the definition of `disability' under § 1630.2(g)(1)(i) or § 1630.2(g)(1)(ii). The effects of an impairment lasting or expected to last fewer than six months can be substantially limiting within the meaning of this section.”The regulations include a clear statement that the definition of an impairment as transitory, that is, “lasting or expected to last for six months or less,” only applies to the “regarded as” (third) prong of the definition of “disability” as part of the “transitory and minor” defense to “regarded as” coverage. It does not apply to the first or second prong of the definition of disability. See Joint Hoyer-Sensenbrenner Statement at 3 (“[T]here is no need for the transitory and minor exception under the first two prongs because it is clear from the statute and the legislative history that a person can only bring a claim if the impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities or the individual has a record of an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”).Therefore, an impairment does not have to last for more than six months in order to be considered substantially limiting under the first or the second prong of the definition of disability. For example, as noted above, if an individual has a back impairment that results in a 20-pound lifting restriction that lasts for several months, he is substantially limited in the major life activity of lifting, and therefore covered under the first prong of the definition of disability. At the same time, “[t]he duration of an impairment is one factor that is relevant in determining whether the impairment substantially limits a major life activity. Impairments that last only for a short period of time are typically not covered, although they may be covered if sufficiently severe.” Joint Hoyer-Sensenbrenner Statement at 5.

And the EEOC's revised Interpretative Guidance for 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(l) provides in pertinent part:

     As prescribed in the ADA Amendments Act, the regulations provide an exception to coverage under the "regarded as" prong where the impairment on which a prohibited action is based is both transitory (having an actual or expected duration of six months or less) and minor. The regulations make clear (at § 1630.2(l)(2) and § 1630.15(f)) that this exception is a defense to a claim of discrimination. "Providing this exception responds to concerns raised by employer organizations and is reasonable under the 'regarded as' prong of the definition because individuals seeking coverage under this prong need not meet the functional limitation requirement contained in the first two prongs of the definition." 2008 Senate Statement of Managers at 10; See also 2008 House Judiciary Committee Report at 18 (explaining that "absent this exception, the third prong of the definition would have covered individuals who are regarded as having common ailments like the cold or flu, and this exception responds to concerns raised by members of the business community regarding potential abuse of this provision and misapplication of resources on individuals with minor ailments that last only a short period of time"). However, as an exception to the general rule for broad coverage under the "regarded as" prong, this limitation on coverage should be construed narrowly. 2008 House Judiciary Committee Report at 18.

Old law

The EEOC's Interpretative Guidance for 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j) provides:

temporary, non-chronic impairments of short duration, with little or no long term or permanent impact, are usually not disabilities. Such impairments may include, but are not limited to, broken limbs, sprained joints, concussions, appendicitis, and influenza.

 

 



 

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