ADA Amendments Act Signed Into Law

September, 2008

On September 25, 2008, President Bush signed into law legislation amending the Americans With Disabilities Act.  The Amendments take effect on January 1, 2009.

The ADA Amendments Act provides greater protection against discrimination based on an individual's disability, perceived disability or record of impairment as originally intended when the ADA was signed into law in 1990.  The new law also overturns two Supreme Court decisions which limited the reach of the ADA.  In Sutton v. United Air Lines Inc. the Court held that courts must consider mitigating measures in deciding whether an individual has an ADA disability. In Toyota Motor Mfg. Ky. Inc. v. Williams the Court adopted standards which increased the burden for individuals to prove they are "substantially limited in a major life activity."

The new law states that courts should broadly construe the definition of a disability and specifies that an impairment that is "episodic or in remission” qualifies as a disability "if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active."  The Amendments also instruct courts not to consider "the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures” such as medications.  An exception was carved out for eyeglasses and contact lenses.

As a result of the Amendments, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been charged with revising its regulations to be consistent with the new law.  The overall result of the Amendments is that individuals will have less difficulty proving that they are substantially limited in one or more major life activity.

For employers, the expanded coverage further complicates this already challenging area of law and likely will result in more requests for accommodation.  For assistance with these issues, please contact Cascade.


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