April 23, 2014

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Offers Guidance on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Workplace Accommodations

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 here. 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 two 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.

©2014 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved.

About the Author


Tiffany S. Fordyce concentrates her practice on commercial litigation, with an emphasis on labor and employment. Her employment litigation practice includes all types of discrimination and retaliation claims, wage and hour claims, trade secret infringement claims and WARN Act defense. Tiffany has worked on class actions in many different areas of the law. Her general litigation experience includes breach of contract, real estate, copyright and trademark infringement, civil rights defense, unfair competition claims and defense of consumer rights claims.


About the Author


Michael D. Karpeles chairs the Chicago Labor & Employment Practice. He has wide-ranging experience in complex commercial litigation and concentrates his practice in employment law. Mike regularly defends employers in state and federal courts and administrative agencies around the country in class and collective actions as well as individual cases involving allegations of discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge and violations of wage and hour laws. He also handles cases under the ADA, ERISA, FMLA and whistleblower statutes. He has litigated numerous matters...


Julia Riedel Emfinger is an Associate in the Litigation Practice of Greenberg Traurig’s Chicago office.


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