The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (ADAAA) went into effect on January 1, 2009. Congress, in the ADAAA, directed the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to revise its regulations to reflect the changes made by the Act. On March 24, 2011, the EEOC issued final regulations to implement the ADAAA which become effective May 24, 2011. Consistent with the ADAAA, the regulations simplify the determination of who has a “disability” and make it easier for people to establish that they are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The regulations set forth a list of principles to guide the determination of whether a person has a disability. For example, the regulations provide that an impairment need not prevent, or severely or significantly restrict, performance of a major life activity in order 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 regulations also provide, with the exception of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses, that “mitigating measures” such as medication and assistive devices like hearing aids should 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.
The regulations clarify that 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 regulations also include examples of impairments that should easily be concluded to be disabilities, such as HIV infection, diabetes, epilepsy, and bipolar disorder.
Following the mandates of the ADAAA, the regulations also make it easier for individuals to establish coverage under the “regarded as” part of the definition of “disability.” In the past, establishing such coverage posed significant hurdles, but under the ADAAA and the final regulations, the focus is now on how a person is treated rather than on what the employer believes about the nature of the employee’s impairment.
The EEOC’s final regulations are available for public view on the Federal Register website or by clicking HERE
If you have any questions about this Labor & Employment Law Update or other legal issues, please contact a Richards, Layton & Finger attorney