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Appeals Court Rules Diabetes A Disability


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3/12/2009
Brent Adams
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According to the ruling of a federal appeals court, being an insulin-dependent diabetic can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

However, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to rule whether the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 would apply retroactively to the case of the diabetic metallurgy specialist who filed suit against his former employer under ADA.

The panel, based out of San Francisco, California, ruled in early February that a district court was wrong to grant summary judgment to the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District, the onetime employer of Larry Rohr, when he claimed protection under the ADA. The appellate court judges said that Rohr had “presented a genuine issue of material fact” that his major life activity of eating had been significantly limited due his suffering from diabetes, which raised the genuine issue of whether or not he was considered disabled under the ADA.

In 2000, Rohr received the diagnosis that he was an insulin-dependent type 2 diabetic. At that time, he was employed by Salt River, which is based out of Tempe, Arizona. He learned in 2003 that he was assigned to work for five to six weeks on a project requiring him to travel away from his office. As his condition deteriorated, he notified his employer that even though he followed a “very demanding regimen,” for controlling his illness, he required further accommodations, including not being required to engage in overnight travel, to maintain proper control of his diabetes.

Both Rohr’s personal physician and one employed by Salt River agreed that his travel should be limited. In 2004, Salt River told Rohr that his restrictions were preventing him from carrying out the essential functions of his work and gave him the options of finding another position within the company, apply for disability payments, or take early retirement.

At Rohr’s request, his doctor lifted his travel ban. However, Salt River’s doctor believed the restriction should remain in place, despite being initially opposed to the move. Rohr then applied for benefits from social security disability and filed suit against Salt River, alleging age and disability discrimination. He later dropped the age discrimination claim.

Salt River was granted summary judgment in 2006 by a district court, and Rohr filed an appeal. The appellate court panel found that being an insulin-dependent diabetic can qualify as being disabled. It also found Rohr to be a “qualified” individual, able to perform the essential functions of his job, under the ADA. The case was then remanded to lower court for consideration.



Category: Social Security Disability


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