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This excerpt if from the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the U.S. Department of Labor
Sleep Disorders and the Americans with Disabilities Act
Are sleep disorders disabilities under the ADA?
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet (EEOC, 1992). Therefore, some people with sleep disorders will have a disability under the ADA and some will not.
A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment (EEOC, 1992). For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, visit http://www.jan.wvu.edu/corner/vol02iss04.htm.
Accommodating Employees with Sleep Disorders
(Note: People with sleep disorders may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with sleep disorders will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.)
Questions to Consider:
1. What limitations is the employee with a sleep disorder experiencing?
2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee's job performance?
3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
5. Has the employee with the sleep disorder been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
6. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee with a sleep disorder to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
7. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training regarding sleep disorders?
Provide a device such as a Doze Alert or other alarms to keep the employee alert
Reschedule for longer or shorter, more frequent breaks
Provide a shift change for when the employee is most alert
Provide space enclosures or a private work area or office
Increase natural lighting or provide full spectrum lighting
Reduce clutter in the employee's work environment
Plan for uninterrupted work time
Divide large assignments into smaller tasks and steps
Restructure job to include only essential functions
Allow the employee to listen to music or white noise with a headset
Post instructions with frequently used equipment
Allow the employee to tape record verbal instruction or meetings
Provide written checklists
Allow additional training time
Provide written as well as verbal instructions
Use notebooks, calendars, or sticky notes to record information for easy retrieval
Provide a flexible start time and/or end time
Allow the employee to work from home
Provide a part time work schedule
Provide a shift change
Provide a flexible schedule
Allow longer or more frequent work breaks
Provide additional time to learn new responsibilities
Provide backup coverage for when the employee needs to take breaks
Restructure job to include only essential functions
Situations and Solutions:
A financial analyst with sleep apnea often fell asleep while working at her computer. The employer provided her with a small device called a Doze Alert that fits in her ear and sounds whenever her head starts to drop forward as she falls asleep.
A customer service representative with hypersomnia had difficulty waking up for his morning schedule, which resulted in him being late for his shift. The employer accommodated him by moving him to the afternoon shift.
A dispatcher with shift work sleep disorder worked rotating shifts that caused his sleep disorder to be exacerbated. The employer changed the rotating shift schedule for all employees to shifts that were assigned by seniority.
A clerical employee with insomnia had a hard time maintaining concentration on the job and his stamina was often poor because of inadequate sleep. This employee was allowed frequent breaks to help improve his stamina.
An accountant with restless leg syndrome was often 10-15 minutes late for work every day due to amount and quality of sleep. The employer provided this employee with a half an hour flexible start time. Depending on when the employee arrived, the time was made up either in a break or at the end of the day.
The following is from DOJ at this link - http://www.jan.wvu.edu/corner/vol02iss04.htm.
Volume 02, Issue 04
How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
From the desk of Linda Carter Batiste, J.D.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. However, the ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the question of whether an employee has a disability is answered on a case by case basis, considering how the specific employee is affected by his/her medical condition. As a result, one of the more frequent questions JAN consultants get is whether a particular employee has a disability. Although JAN consultants cannot answer that question, they can provide information about the ADA's definition of disability and guidance regarding how to determine whether an individual meets that definition.
What is the ADA's definition of disability?
The ADA contains a broad definition of disability. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. To determine whether a particular employee has a disability you must first determine two things:
1. Whether the employee has an impairment, and
2. Whether the employee's impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities.
In addition, a person can meet the ADA's definition of disability by having a record of or being regarded as having an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
For additional information regarding the definition of "disability," "impairment," "substantially limits," and "major life activities" visit: Definition of the Term Disability (EEOC Guidance) at http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/902cm.html.
How can employers determine whether an employee has a disability when the employee requests accommodation?
When an employee requests a reasonable accommodation and the employee's disability or need for accommodation is not known or obvious, an employer may request medical documentation that shows whether the employee has an impairment and whether that impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities.
For additional information and a sample medical inquiry form for determining disability, visit: http://www.jan.wvu.edu/media/Medical.htm.
How can employees determine whether they have a disability under the ADA?
To be entitled to an accommodation under the ADA, employees must meet the ADA's definition of disability. Unfortunately, it can be difficult or impossible to determine for sure whether someone meets the ADA's definition of disability before making an accommodation request. Employees who need accommodation can review the definition of disability and if they believe they meet the definition, they can proceed with their accommodation request. Employees may want to attach medical documentation to their accommodation request to show that they have an impairment (this usually means a diagnosis) and to show how the impairment limits them in their major life activities. Major life activities include functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. (This list is not an exhaustive list of all major life activities.)
Even if employees do not think that they meet the ADA's definition of disability, they may want to discuss accommodation needs with their employers anyway; some employers may choose to accommodate employees even if they do not meet the ADA definition of disability.
For ideas regarding how to make a written accommodation request, visit:
Accommodation Request Letter at http://www.jan.wvu.edu/media/accommrequestltr.html.
For additional information on accommodation ideas, contact JAN directly.