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Final ADAAA Regs Published

Reprinted from PN June 2011

Congress directed EEOC to revise its regulations to conform to changes made by the act.

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On March 25, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published final regulations to implement the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA). The regs are designed to simplify the determination of who has a “disability” and make it easier for people to establish they are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

ADAAA went into effect on January 1, 2009. In ADAAA, Congress directed EEOC to revise its regulations to conform to changes made by the act. ADAAA overturned several Supreme Court decisions Congress believed had interpreted the definition of “disability” too narrowly, resulting in denial of protection for many people with impairments such as cancer, diabetes, or epilepsy. ADAAA states the definition of disability should be interpreted in favor of broad coverage of individuals. The effect of these changes is to make it easier for individuals seeking protection under ADA to establish they have a disability within ADA’s meaning.

ADAAA and the final regulations keep ADA’s definition of the term “disability” as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record (or past history) of such an impairment; or being regarded as having a disability. But the law made significant changes in how those terms are interpreted, and the regulations implement those changes.

Based on the statutory requirements, the regs set forth a list of principles to guide the determination of whether a person has a disability. For example, the principles provide that an impairment need not prevent or severely or significantly restrict performance of a major life activity to be considered a disability. Additionally, whether an impairment is a disability should be construed broadly, to the maximum extent allowable under the law. The principles also provide that, with one exception (ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses), “mitigating measures”—such as medication and assistive devices like hearing aids—must not be considered when determining whether someone has a disability. Furthermore, impairments that are episodic (such as epilepsy) or in remission (such as cancer) are disabilities if they would be substantially limiting when active.

Finally, the regulations clarify the term “major life activities” includes “major bodily functions,” such as functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, and brain, neurological, and endocrine functions. The regs also make it clear that, as under the old ADA, not every impairment will constitute a disability. They include examples of impairments that should easily be concluded to be disabilities, such as HIV infection, diabetes, epilepsy, and bipolar disorder. Following ADAAA’s dictates, the regulations focus attention on how the person was treated rather than on what an employer believes about the nature of the person’s impairment.

EEOC has released two question-and-answer documents about the regulations to help the public and employers—including small businesses—understand the law and new regulations. The ADAAA regs, accompanying question-and-answer documents, and a fact sheet are available on the EEOC website, ww.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/adaaa_info.cfm.

 

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Final ADAAA Regs Published

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