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Are Disabilities and Serious Health Conditions the Same Thing?


Are Disabilities and Serious Health Conditions the Same Thing?

Unraveling federal regulations that govern medical issues

If you’re uncertain of your rights regarding disabilities, injuries, and illnesses, you’re certainly not alone. Deciphering federal regulations and all their various acronyms can feel like trying to read a bowl of alphabet soup.

Often, physical or mental health issues may be covered by multiple federal laws. On top of that, state and local laws may also sometimes apply.

Today, let’s take a look at some common issues related to how the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) collide when it comes to serious health conditions.

What is a disability?

Among other provisions, the FMLA allows employees to take medical leave for serious health conditions.

The ADA allows disabled employees to seek out job accommodations to allow them to continue working. Sometimes, taking leave can be an accommodation.

So if both the FMLA and the ADA allow leave, how do the laws differ?

The first thing to know is that a serious health condition under the FMLA may not necessarily be a disability under the ADA.

A serious health condition under the FMLA is generally an injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider.

A disability under the ADA is an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities are things like walking, talking, eating, working, or caring for oneself.

Someone suffering from diabetes, which is generally considered a serious health condition, may not necessarily be disabled. Similarly, a broken leg may not be enough to trigger ADA coverage.

However, some serious health conditions may be covered by the ADA. For example, cancer is often considered a disability. However, it’s important to note that ADA coverage is considered on a case-by-case basis. That is, there’s no list of conditions that are or are not covered.

Are you eligible for coverage?

Not every employer is required to comply with the FMLA or the ADA.

The FMLA covers most private employers with 50 or more employees. The ADA covers private employers with 15 or more employees.

That means that private employers with 50 or more employees are covered by both the FMLA and the ADA. In addition, state and local government employers are covered by both the ADA and the FMLA, regardless of the number of employees.

Contact us for a consultation now

As this fact sheet from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shows, issues surrounding medical conditions and disabilities can be extremely complicated. If you feel that your rights have been violated in relation to any of these issues, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice.

Call or email us to schedule a consultation to talk about your unique situation.

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