Court: Kidney Failure Is an ADA Disability

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that people with kidney failure (search) that's severe enough to require dialysis deserve some of the workplace protections offered by the Americans With Disabilities Act (search).

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said an employee at aSam's Club (search) warehouse store in Pittsburgh developed a disability covered by the law when she lost most kidney function during end-stage renal disease.

The worker needed frequent dialysis treatments. She sued after the company refused to allow her to self-administer part of her dialysis treatment on store property — a step she said was necessary if she was to continue working.

The company fired the woman, a 12-year employee, when she was unable to return from a yearlong medical leave.

In her suit, the worker said the store and its parent company, Wal-Mart, had failed to abide by sections of the Americans With Disabilities Act requiring companies to make every reasonable attempt to accommodate workers with physical impairments.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of the company, agreeing with Wal-Mart's lawyers that the woman's disease had not left her "significantly limited in a major life activity."

The 3rd Circuit overturned that ruling Tuesday.

"A physical impairment that limits an individual's ability to cleanse and eliminate body waste does impair a major life activity," Judge Michael Chertoff wrote.

The case returns to a lower court for further action before a final ruling is entered.