The Americans with Disabilities Act was originally signed into law in 1990. Unfortunately, the Federal Courts made lawsuits under the act more and more difficult for disabled Americans since its adoption. Therefore, the United States Congress passed amendments to the ADA and these were signed into law September 25, 2008. These amendments take effect January 1, 2009.
In enacting these amendments, the Congress stated that the original act was to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The amendments also clarify that the ADA was intended to provide broad coverage. The findings and purpose of the amendments reject the narrow interpretation that the United States Supreme Court and lower courts interpreted the ADA to cover in the years after its original adoption.
Specifically, the act:
-Directs the EEOC to revise that portion of its regulations defining the term “substantially limits”;
-Expands the definition of “major life activities” by including two non-exhaustive lists:
the first list includes many activities that the EEOC has recognized (e.g., walking) as well as activities that EEOC has not specifically recognized (e.g., reading, bending, and communicating);
the second list includes major bodily functions (e.g., “functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions”);
-States that mitigating measures other than “ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses” shall not be considered in assessing whether an individual has a disability;
-Clarifies that an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active;
-Provides that an individual subjected to an action prohibited by the ADA (e.g., failure to hire) because of an actual or perceived impairment will meet the “regarded as” definition of disability, unless the impairment is transitory and minor;
-Provides that individuals covered only under the “regarded as” prong are not entitled to reasonable accommodation; and
-Emphasizes that the definition of “disability” should be interpreted broadly.
These changes were much needed and they will have a positive effect on prohibiting discrimination based on an employee’s disability. If you or a family member has been discriminated against based upon a disability, please contact me today at the Pfeifer Law Firm. I can discuss how these changes will affect disability claims in Arkansas.