The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued new guidance in an effort to help employers work with employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and intellectual disabilities.

The updated guidance takes the form of Questions and Answers (Q&As) on topics including:

  • How to obtain medical documentation of these disabilities,
  • The reasonable accommodations that may be required for employees with these disabilities, and
  • When an employer may refuse to hire someone with one of these disabilities due to safety concerns.

According to the updated guidance, employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and intellectual disabilities "should be easily found to have a disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008. The updated guidance notes that intellectual disabilities are characterized by "significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior that affect many everyday social and practical skills." Intellectual disabilities may include autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, developmental delay or fetal alcohol syndrome.

Each set of Q&As addresses an employer's ability to ask an employee about his or her potential disability. According to the Q&As, employers may ask disability-related questions to employees or require employees to undergo a medical examination if they:

  • Know about an employee's medical condition, have observed performance problems and reasonably believe the problems are related to the medical condition;
  • Receive reliable information from someone else indicating that an employee has a medical condition that is causing performance problems; or
  • Have a reasonable belief that the employee will be unable to safely perform the essential functions of his or her job because of a disability.

Employers may ask employees about these disabilities to the extent the information is necessary to support an employee's request for a reasonable accommodation; to verify an employee's use of leave related to the disability; or to enable the employee to participate in a voluntary company wellness program.

 The Q&As provide myriad examples of reasonable accommodations that may be necessary for employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and intellectual disabilities. Because reasonable accommodations are determined on an individualized basis, employers should consult the Q&As for guidance but are encouraged to work with counsel to ensure that appropriate accommodations are made for specific employees.