Failure to Provide Reasonable Accommodations for Migraines May Result in Legal Headaches

February 06, 2017

The United States District Court for the District of Kansas has denied an employer's motion to dismiss claims that it violated the the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) for terminating an employee with migraines for attendance problems.

Employee alleged that her migraine headaches constituted a disability entitling her to a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Employer terminated Employee for “excessive absenteeism” despite the fact that only four of her eleven absences over a 5 month period were attributable to her medical condition. Since Employee’s headaches usually lasted less than one day, and she made up missed work time the following day, Employer believed she did not require a reasonable accommodation. The court disagreed, and determined that Employer violated the ADA.

For a condition to be defined as a disability under the ADA, it must “substantially limit” a “major life activity.” The court relied upon Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations defining “substantially limit” to mean that a person is “significantly restricted in the ability to perform either a class of jobs or a broad range of jobs in various classes as compared to the average person having comparable training, skills and abilities.” Employee argued that her migraine headaches, though only affecting her occasionally, “substantially limit” her ability to work. The court agreed.

An employer should be wary of making decisions regarding an employee’s medical condition without review of medical documentation.