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Know Minnesota’s Disability Law: State Statute Has Lower Threshold Than Federal ADA

Business Management Daily (04/22/12)

While the Americans With Disabilities Act requires employees with disabilities to demonstrate that a major life function is substantially impaired by their disability, Minnesota employs a lower standard in which employees need only show that the condition materially impacts a major life function. However, employees still have difficulty proving a material impact, as evidenced by a lawsuit filed by a worker who requested accommodations for a peaceful and quiet work space before being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and anxiety disorder, after which he did not request accommodations or offer medical reports. The employee was terminated after failing to make progress on a performance improvement plan, and the court sided with the employer in ruling that he was not disabled because he showed no material impairment in any major life function, including his ability to work. Experts say that whether employees with similar disorders are disabled must be considered on an individual basis, and if material impacts on major life functions are determined, supervisors can work with employees on accommodations.