Can an employer fire or refuse to hire me on account of a sleep apnea diagnosis?

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The Americans With Disabilities Act, as amended in 2008, was changed to define a person as disabled even with a “disability corrected by an assistive device like a CPAP machine,” says Bob Stanton of Truckers for a Cause. The person is still considered as being disabled even though the disability is corrected.

Employers, thus, must make reasonable accommodations for the disability – and they can’t refuse to hire the person or fire them because of it, Stanton says. “After 2008, you can’t be fired for having sleep apnea, but they can fire you if you’re not currently and effectively treated.”

Reasonable accommodations could mean allowing a driver to install an inverter in his truck to run a CPAP device, Stanton adds, whether sharing costs for the installation or not. “Not every CPAP plugs straight into a cigar plug,” he adds. 

Another fear of many, he says, is that “they won’t get hired” after receiving a diagnosis, says Stanton, but “medical info like having sleep apnea is confidential.” Only those who truly need to know – direct supervisors or an HR representative – should be in possession of such information if you’d rather others, such as recruiters, not know.

Who you must tell, however, is the DOT medical examiner. “If you lie to the medical examiner and you’re in a major accident of any kind,” says Stanton, “all of your medical records will be subpoenaed. Your credibility on everything then goes out of the window.”

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