There are special rules for disability discrimination cases. They begin with the definition of a “disability.” A plaintiff has a “disability” within the meaning of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act if s/he:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of that person’s major life activities;
- Has a record of such an impairment; or
- Is regarded as having such an impairment, whether the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.
An employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to a person who has or has a record of a substantially limiting impairment. An accommodation could include making its facilities readily accessible and usable by persons with disabilities, job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, and reassignment to a vacant position, and other accommodations. These accommodations should be the subject of an interactive process between the employee/job applicant and the employer.
Whether a person has, has a record of, or is regarded as having a “disability” under these statutes must be decided on a case-by-case basis. The key is not the diagnosis, but rather the impact of the impairment(s) on the plaintiff’s major life activities.