To mark the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the National Council on Disability (NCD)
released a report that analyzed over 900 court decisions applying the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) to determine if the ADAAA has achieved its intended goal - an expansive interpretation of what is considered a disability under the ADA. Along with this report, the NCD provided 23 findings and recommendations for improvements, including ongoing monitoring and analysis of case law and training for judges, attorneys and other advocates.
According to the NCD's findings, there has been significant improvement in how the courts interpret and apply the ADA. For example the NCD found that:
The courts have embraced the concept of "predictable assessments" - whereby some types of impairments (e.g., cancer, multiple sclerosis or HIV-positive status), will in virtually all cases be considered a disability under the ADA;
The courts are properly treating an impairment that is episodic or in remission (e.g., epilepsy or diabetes) as a disability (no matter how brief or infrequent the episode takes place) if it substantially limits a major life activity when active;
In six of the seven Circuit Court decisions in which ADAAA provisions were applied, the plaintiff prevailed on establishing a disability; and
In the district court decisions, plaintiffs prevailed on the showing of disability in more than three out of four decisions.
Jeff Rosen, NCD Chairperson believes the ADAAA has made a significant positive difference for employees and applicants in ADA-related lawsuits. This does not mean that employers are losing a lot more lawsuits - it just means that cases are not getting dismissed during the early stages of the litigation process because employees and applicants are able to establish that they are disabled under the ADA. As a result, employers are parties to lengthier cases (that may still get dismissed), resulting in more time and money coming out of their pockets.
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