The long-awaited final regulations to the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) go into effect next week on May 24, 2011. Although the ADAAA and the final regulations involve significant changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers who paid attention when the ADAAA was enacted and who already have good disability-related practices in place should not have to make many changes to their policies or procedures. Employers should, however, review their policies and practices in light of the final regulations to ensure compliance.
The ADA became effective in 1990 and prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against qualified “disabled” applicants or employees. The law also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to a qualified disabled individual unless doing so would be an undue hardship. The ADAAA went into effect on January 1, 2009, and was enacted to significantly expand the ADA’s definition of “disability” and to overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions and ADA regulations that had narrowly construed the term “disability.” In enacting the ADAAA, Congress made it clear that it wanted significantly more impairments to be legally protected and that it wanted future legal disputes to focus on the merits of the challenged employment decision rather than whether an individual had a protected “disability.” Through the ADAAA, Congress also directed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to enact new regulations consistent with the ADAAA, resulting in the final regulations, and the EEOC’s accompanying Interpretive Guidance, which become effective on May 24, 2011.
The EEOC’s Web site contains the full text of the final ADAAA regulations, the updated Interpretative Guidance, and an EEOC Fact Sheet and Question and Answer documents summarizing the regulations. The following is a summary of some of the more pertinent legal changes reflected in the final regulations:
42 U.S.C. § 12102. While this definition is substantially similar to the ADA’s definition of “disability,” the ADAAA and final regulations expand the scope of individuals who will fall within the definition and protections of the amended ADA in a number of ways as summarized below. In the introductory sections to the final regulations, the EEOC estimates that the number of individuals with disabilities whose coverage has been clarified by the ADAAA ranges from 12 to 38.4 million people and that the total number of individuals with impairments cited in the law could be at least 60 million people.
Again, employers with good practices already in place and who reviewed their practices following the passage of the ADAAA should be well-situated to comply with the final ADAAA regulations. The following are, however, some tips for responding to the regulations:
If you have any questions about the ADA, the ADAAA, or the final ADAA regulations, or need assistance responding to an employee’s reasonable accommodation request, please contact Megan Anderson or another member of Gray Plant Mooty’s Employment and Labor practice group.
This article is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. You are urged to consult a lawyer concerning any specific legal questions you may have.
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