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I have some pretty complicated sleep apnea (diagnosed, service connected) that is in the process of being treated. Unfortunately, the type of device I require is on a significant back-order and there's really no telling when it's going to arrive. I've informed my employer, and I have a decent working relationship with my first-line regarding flexible arrival times, but other individuals within the organization have started to cause a stink, resulting in a counseling. Said counseling threatened termination should I be unable to arrive "on time".

Note that I do not work in an environment where sleep issues can cause any sort of danger to myself or others.

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  • Please start here: askjan.org/disabilities/Sleep-Disorder.cfm. You'll see related links in the sidebar. And read their general toolkit. Get a strong letter from a medical provider to share with your employer. Note that you can contact AskJAN for questions and support. It can be helpful to role-play the conversations with someone before you have them at work. Peers will be more supportive, and less unsupportive, if they are given information about ADA, 504, and the specific disability. Jun 18 at 4:23

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There is no clear answer, though multiple sources feel that the answer is clearly "yes" and "no", and there is a reasonable probability that given the circumstances described, a court ruling would be favorable to plaintiff. This informal letter from the EEOC tends to conclude that sleep apnea is not a disability in the legal sense, but this letter (2003) was rescinded – still, it reveals one line of thinking and relevant case law. In Michaels v. McPherson Kansas, the appellate court refers to and upholds a lower court ruling that plaintiff suffered employment discrimination under the ADA (among other things). The appeal does not discuss the core issue in ADA law, whether the condition significantly limits a person's life, which strongly suggests that defendant accepted the conclusion that sleep apena can be a disability. On the other hand, in Taylor v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, a discrimination case involving sleep apnea was dismissed – but crucial to the dismissal was that he was successfully treated (also relevant was the lack of notice given the the employer).

Finally, in Keyes v. Catholic Charities, federal court found that plaintiff's condition was not a disability under the meaning of the term in ADA. This does not mean that sleep apnea is "not a disability under the law", it means that "defendant is not disabled under the law", that is, the conclusion is based on the particulars of the individual condition, which is why the answer is "maybe yes, maybe no". There is a two-prong inquiry into the condition. First is a determination whether the person is “substantially limited in any major life activity other than working, such as walking, seeing, or hearing”, compared to the general population. If not, then an inquiry into work-related substantial limitations. A six month delay in seeking treatment undermined Keyes' argument that his condition was a substantial limitation, furthermore he had a CPAP machine, so essentially his condition was fixed – circumstances not application to the case you describe. See also Peter v. Lincoln Technical Institute, Inc., 255 F. Supp. 2d 417 for various citations and the overall conclusion that

no court in this circuit appears to have decided whether sleep apnea is, on its own, enough to qualify as a disability, probably because "a particular diagnosis, no matter how severe, ..., standing alone, is not sufficient to establish `disability'"

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  • Outstanding information, thank you. Read through the whole Peter v Lincoln page and it definitely helped me understand what I need to ensure that I myself do to make sure that I can at least be eligible for the ADA protection.
    – Daniel
    Jun 21 at 11:47

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