Pushing The Envelope: New Disability Regulations Increase Employers’ Exposure Risk


After nearly two years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released its final regulations implementing the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), which will become effective on May 24, 2011. The ADAAA and the new regulations broaden the class of individuals who qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), including those who must be provided with reasonable accommodations. As a result, employers are likely to see an increase in federal disability-related claims, including requests for reasonable accommodations.

The ADA prohibits employment discrimination against a qualified individual with a disability. Under the statute, an individual is “qualified” if he or she is able to perform the essential functions of his or her position with or without a reasonable accommodation. The ADA defines the term “disability” as a physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits” one or more of the individual’s “major life activities.” In addition to an actual disability, the ADA also protects employees who are “regarded as” disabled and those who have a “record of” a disability. While the specific definitions of these ADA groups essentially remain unchanged, the new regulations construe the application of the ADA much more liberally.

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