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EEOC issues new guidance on specific disabilities 

By Miriam L. Rosen

On May 15, 2013, the EEOC issued four documents that provide up-to-date guidance on disability discrimination related to four specific conditions. The EEOC’s focus in this guidance is in line with a key goal in its new Strategic Enforcement Plan, the employment rights of individuals with disabilities. 

The EEOC’s guidance addresses how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to applicants and employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities.    The guidance covers topics such as the questions that employers can ask about an applicant’s condition and the types of documentation that an employer can require an employee to provide regarding the existence of a disability and the need for an accommodation.  The documents also provide the EEOC’s commentary on how to handle questions from co-workers about accommodations provided to employees with disabilities.  The documents also provide insight into the types of accommodations the EEOC considers to be reasonable options for employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities.    Addressing an issue that employees often struggle with, the guidance notes that employers may be required to provide multiple accommodations to the same employee if it is necessary to assist the employee in performing the essential functions of the position.   Interestingly, the guidance also provides some advice to healthcare providers on the types of information that they can and should provide employers to assist in understanding an employee’s condition and providing reasonable accommodations.

For employers dealing with the difficult issues of finding reasonable accommodations and continuing to operate their businesses in an efficient manner, the new guidance documents provide useful insight into the obligations the EEOC expects them to meet.