Final EEOC Rule Implementing 2008 Disabilities Act Amendments Effective May 24
On May 24, the final rule implementing 2008 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became effective. According to the summary of the rule issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) on March 25 (76 FR 16978), the amendments retain the ADA’s basic definition of ‘‘disability’’ as an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. However, they make significant changes the way that these statutory terms should be interpreted and provides revised interpretive guidance in an accompanying ‘‘Appendix to Part 1630—Interpretive Guidance on Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.’’
In general, rights of employees with disabilities are broadened in the regulations, which shift the emphasis from defining disabilities toward making sure that employees with disabilities are accommodated within the workplace, according to several ADA legal experts. The new rule closely tracks with recent legislation overturning court decisions that were seen as restricting the scope of the ADA. As such, it is expected to make it easier for employees claiming disability discrimination to advance their claims. The ADAAA has resulted in a 23 percent increase in the number of disability charges filed with the EEOC in FY 2010 from the prior fiscal year.
Legal experts on the ADA generally advise that employers should reexamine their employment practices to ensure that they are consistent with the amended law and these new regulations. At the same time, there is an emphasis in the new rule on making accommodations that are “reasonable in light of circumstances,” according to Elizabeth Milito, and attorney working on this rulemaking for the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB). For this reason, small businesses may be held to different standards than larger businesses.
For Further Information Contact: Christopher J. Kuczynski, Assistant Legal Counsel, or Jeanne Goldberg, Senior Attorney Advisor, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at (202) 663-4638.