Are Snorers “Disabled”?Oct 28, 2015, by
A recent lawsuit from a pilot in training brings up the question of whether snorers are considered disabled for the purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees, but this pilot says that his request for accommodations because of his snoring was ignored and he was fired for his snoring. He claims this violates workplace protections granted to people with disabilities. But does it?
Definition of a Disability
Although many sections of the US Code include a specific list of conditions that are considered a disability, the ADA doesn’t. It just offers the following definition:
The term “disability” means, with respect to an individual—
- a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
- a record of such an impairment; or
- being regarded as having such an impairment.
Once a person has been established as having a disability, the ADA requires that employers make reasonable accommodations in either the application process, the facilities, work schedules, and other aspects of the job so that a disabled person can perform the job and get equal benefit from the job.
In addition to accommodations, a person who is considered disabled is protected against workplace discrimination and reprisals.
A Snoring Lawsuit
As part of a pilot’s training, he or she is forced to travel to different cities and have layovers in them, often with overnight stays. When faced with this situation, one pilot trainee said he requested a separate room so that he would not disturb other pilot trainees.
There are three potential concerns for having to share a room. First, the trainee might have worried that he would disturb another trainee. Second, he might have worried that disturbing the other trainee would lead to himself being awakened to stop his snoring. Third, he might have worried that his snoring would have stigmatized him and led to further workplace discrimination.
But the airline denied his request for separate accommodation, and, as a result, the pilot claims he was effectively terminated.
When he filed his lawsuit, he alleged violation not of the ADA, but of the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992.
Does Snoring Meet the Test of Disability?
Although this pilot doesn’t cite the ADA, his lawsuit does raise the question about whether snoring can be considered a disability. From the definition, a disability has to substantially limit a “major life [activity].”
When considering tests of disability, sleeping is uncommonly cited as a major life activity, but it most certainly is one. Sleep is essential to one’s ability to rest the body and rejuvenate. And sleeping problems can significantly impact many other things people do during the day.
Especially crucial is if a person’s snoring is actually a sign of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can cause a person to awaken dozens, even hundreds of times a night, resulting in significantly impaired sleep. It seems possible that this could fall into the category of a disability.
Of course, you would be expected to get treatment for your snoring or sleep apnea before qualifying for a disability classification. And oral appliance therapy for snoring is so highly effective that you would probably no longer qualify.