Labor and Employment

Do I Have a Disability Under the Americans With Disabilities Act?

By Sachi Barreiro, Attorney, University of San Francisco School of Law

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for employers with 15 or more employees to discriminate against those with disabilities. A disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (such as walking, talking, learning, seeing, breathing, or hearing) or major bodily functions (such as the proper functioning of the immune or reproductive systems). Amendments to the ADA in 2008 expanded the definition of “disability” and stresses that it should be interpreted broadly.

Whether an employee has a disability is decided on a case-by-case basis. However, the following conditions usually qualify as disabilities: blindness, deafness, paralysis resulting in wheelchair use, cancer, HIV infection, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. Certain mental conditions are also likely to be disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia. However, a wide variety of other impairments may also qualify as disabilities under the ADA.

An employee can also bring a disability discrimination claim under the ADA if the employer discriminated based on the employee’s history of having a disability or an incorrect belief that the employee has a disability.

Go to the main employment discrimination FAQ for employees page.

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