September 23, 2009 – The public has been given 60 days to comment on proposed revisions to regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. The regulatory changes, contained in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking just announced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), focuses on providing individuals seeking protection against employment discrimination under Title I of the ADA with a more expansive definition of “disability.”
The ADA is an antidiscrimination statute passed by Congress and signed into law by the President in July 1990. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing Title I of the ADA, which prohibits employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees and job applicants with disabilities.
“We encourage the public to contact us with suggestions, recommendations or comments, or submit them directly to the EEOC” said Susanne Bruyere, director of the Region II Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center, part of the National Network of ADA Centers. “People with disabilities will be the winners when the new regulations are fully implemented and extensive public comment wil l ensure they are the best that they can be.”
The ADA Amendments Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2009, and the regulatory revisions embedded in the proposed rule now available for public comment, make it easier for an individual alleging employment discrimination based on disability to establish that he or she meets the ADA’s definitions of “disability.” The ADA Amendments Act also modifies the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits employment discrimination in the federal workforce on the basis of disability.
The regulatory changes in the proposed rule emphasize that the definition of disability—an impairment that poses a substantial limitation in a major life activity—must be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA, and should not require extensive analysis.
The regulatory changes expand major life activities to include “major bodily functions, and clarify that mitigating measures, such as medications and devices that people use to reduce or eliminate the effects of impairment, are not to be considered when determining whether a person has a disability. They also clarify that impairments that are episodic or in remission, such as epilepsy, cancer, and many kinds of psychiatric impairments, are disabilities if they would “substantially limit” major life activities when active.
Finally, the regulation revisions provide a more straightforward way of demonstrating a substantial limitation in the major life activity of working, and implements the ADA Amendment Act’s new standard for determining whether someone is regarded as having a disability.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking containing the regulatory changes is posted on the EEOC website, www.eeoc.gov, along with a question -and-answer guide about the proposal and instructions for submitting public comments to the Commission. Comments may also be provided to Larry Featherston at the Region II DBTAC – Northeast ADA Center, [email protected].