The final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act ("ADAAA") are effective today, May 24, 2011. As you probably know, the new regulations highlight the ADAAA's broader definition of disability. This means more individuals with be considered disabled, thus qualifying for protection under the ADA. The focus now will likely be on the accommodation process, instead of whether someone qualifies as disabled under the regulations.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") announced the filing of three new disability discrimination cases in a recent press release. These cases, which were filed under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 ("ADAAA"), allege discrimination against qualified individuals with diabetes, cancer, and severe arthritis.
You should recall that the ADA was amended by the ADAAA, effective January 1, 2009. The ADAAA clarified and expanded the definition of "disability," making it easier for people with disabilities to qualify for protection under the ADA. I wrote a brief newsletter article in October 2008 detailing some of the changes, which you can download here.
The new cases are among the first filed by the EEOC under the ADAAA, but employers can rest assured they will not be the last. According to EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien, the EEOC wants to send a "clear message that the Commission will vigorously enforce the ADA." The EEOC's general counsel further cautions, "Individuals with disabilities -- including serious medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and severe arthritis -- must be evaluated according to their qualifications, and not their disabilities."
Employers and HR professionals should take special care to ensure they fully understand the scope and breadth of the ADAAA. If you have any doubts or questions about the definition of diability, reasonable accommodations, or anything related to the ADAAA, the best time to act is NOW -- do not wait until the EEOC comes knocking.
The Department of Labor recently debuted its Disability Nondiscrimination Law Advisor, an online tool intended to help employers determine which federal disability nondiscrimination laws apply to their organization, and their responsibilities under each law. Employers answer a series of questions about their business, then the Advisor generates a list of applicable disability nondiscrimination laws. The Advisor also includes a "Guide to Employing People with Disabilities," which outlines resources available to help employers comply with disability nondiscrimination laws.
While it is important to note that the Advisor does not address all federal disability nondiscrimination laws, it does address many of the major federal laws, including:
- Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
- Title II, Subtitle A, of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
- Section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (only as it pertains to federal financial assistance)
- Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended
- The Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended
We encourage our clients to use the Advisor as a helpful guide and good starting point for understanding these laws. The Advisor is not, however, a substitute for legal advice on all federal, state, and/or local disability nondiscrimination laws. Employers should consult counsel with any specific questions.