Focuses On Cancer, Diabetes, Epilepsy, And Intellectual Limitations

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently updated its guidance for employers concerning employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities. The federal agency issued the updated guidance as part of its “Disability Discrimination, The Question and Answer Series” (to access online, visit types/disability.cfm).

The expanded coverage of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), which took effect on January 1, 2009, has raised more questions in the workplace. The updated guidance provides additional assistance for employers that are seeking answers regarding these specific disabilities.

The four revised publications now provide specific examples of permissible and impermissible inquiries. The publications address issues such as the circumstances in which employers may make medical inquiries and which types of reasonable accommodations employers should offer disabled employees. The documents also discuss confidential medical information, offer an analysis of concerns about safety, and provide reminders about harassment and retaliation.

While the information is not expansive, it is easily understood and offers sufficient detail to provide additional guidance to employers. The EEOC guidance applies to both applicants and current employees and spells out for the employer appropriate actions under specific circumstances.

Each publication offers a discussion of the particular condition and why it is likely to be considered a disability. The discussion of intellectual disabilities is particularly helpful because it defines an intellectual disability as being “characterized by significant limitation both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior that may affect many everyday social and practical skills.” This characterization by the EEOC may provide added detail that employers will find helpful.

According to Kathy Dudley Helms, a shareholder in Ogletree Deakins’ Columbia office: “From a practical standpoint the updated guidance provides employers an excellent resource when issues arise with regard to these specific conditions—which have each presented more issues since the implementation of the ADAAA.”