On May 15, 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued revised guidance for employers with respect to employees with epilepsy, cancer, diabetes, and intellectual disabilities. The guidance is contained in the EEOC publication “Disability Discrimination: The Questions and Answers Series,” and is posted on the EEOC’s website,  http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm. The recommendations address the expanded definitions of disability under the ADA Amendments Act, that “make it easier to conclude that individuals with a wide range of impairments, including cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities, are protected by the ADA.”

Among other things, the Q&A document offers examples of accommodations that may be appropriate for these conditions. For example:

  • An employee with cancer may need to leave work for doctors’ appointments or treatment and recovery; to take periodic breaks or a private area to rest or take medication; to modify office temperature; or to use their work telephone to call medical professionals.
  • An employee with diabetes may need a private area to test blood sugar or administer insulin injections; a place to rest to normalize blood sugar; breaks to eat, drink, take medication or test blood sugar; and to take leave for treatment, recuperation, or training on managing diabetes.
  • An employee with epilepsy may include breaks to take medication; a private area to rest after a seizure; a rubber mat or carpet to cushion a fall; and/or to rely on other workers for rides to meetings and other work related events.
  • An employee with an intellectual disability may need assistance during the application process, such as having someone read or interpret application materials; training or detailed instructions to do the job; the ability to listen to tape recorded instructions or use detailed schedules for competing tasks; and use of a job coach.

As with other disabilities, all the above disabilities also may require accommodations such as permission to work from home; modified work schedules; reallocation of marginal tasks to another employee; or possible reassignment to a vacant position if the employee is no longer able to perform her current job due to the disability.

Chair of the EEOC, Jacqueline A. Barren, explained that the new guidelines are meant to assist employers in understanding the ADA’s application to cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities, because “nearly 34 million Americans have been diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, or epilepsy, and more than 2 million have an intellectual disability,” and many of those individuals are seeking employment or are already in the workplace. Employers should be aware of this guidance, and prepared to treat employees with these conditions as they treat other individuals protected by the ADA.