EEOC Issues Final Rule: ADA Greatly Expanded

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The EEOC’s Final Rule concerning the January 2009 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is now published (Federal Register, Vol. 76, No. 58, pp. 16978-17017) (Final Rule). The Final Rule will result in many more employees being covered by the ADA. This means more employees will be entitled to reasonable accommodations, and the EEOC and courts will focus on prohibited activity and reasonable accommodations, not on whether the individual is disabled. This will significantly impact your day-to-day operations, your EEOC position statements, and your defense of court cases. If you have not recently done so, it is time to train your managers and supervisors to immediately notify human resources when an employee with a known medical condition is having difficulty performing job duties and when an employee requests time off, an adjusted schedule or modified duties, or other form of assistance.

ADA Basics

The ADA prohibits covered employers from discriminating against qualified individuals on the basis of a disability. A disability can be an actual impairment, a record of an impairment, or a perceived impairment. Discrimination can take many forms, including, but not limited to, refusing to hire or promote, requiring involuntary leave, terminating or demoting, harassing, or failing to provide a reasonable accommodation that would enable an otherwise qualified employee to safely perform the essential functions of his or her job.

Don’t Focus on “Disability”

The Final Rule confirms that “disability” will be construed very broadly in favor of coverage. A “disability” still must involve a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, but the Final Rule makes clear that the terms “substantially limits” and “major life activity” now will be generously construed in favor of the employee.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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