ADA Restoration Act: Will It Redefine “Disability?”


Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelming passed a bill that could dramatically alter the landscape for employees and employers under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (H.R. 3195), also known as the “ADA Restoration Act,” is designed specifically to restore Congress’s original intent in passing the ADA by reversing a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that substantially limited the scope of coverage afforded to disabled employees. Briefly stated, the ADA prohibits, among other things, discrimination in employment by employers with fifteen or more employees. Covered employers are prohibited from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. Additionally, such employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities.

When the ADA was enacted in 1990, it was intended “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities” and “to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” However, despite its broad objective, the statute inadvertently permitted limiting interpretations of the definition of “disability.” Consequently, several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including Sutton v. United Airlines, Inc., 527 U.S. 471 (1999). Murphy v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 527 U.S. 516 (1999), Albertson’s, Inc. v. Kirkingburg, 527 U.S. 555 (1999), and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184 (2002), narrowed the definition of disability under the ADA to exclude many physical and mental impairments from its coverage.

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