On September 25, 2008, President Bush signed into law S.3406, the “ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA),” at a private ceremony attended by a handful of members of Congress. This landmark change to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) had passed both the House and Senate by unanimous consent earlier in September 2008. The ADAAA becomes effective on January 1, 2009.
HR professionals should be aware of the following significant changes to current law contained in the ADA Amendments Act:
- Excludes Consideration of Mitigating Measures – The ADAAA prohibits consideration of mitigating measures in determining whether an individual has a disability, with the exception of ordinary eyeglasses and contact lenses. In other words, employees will be evaluated without regard to the medication, hearing aids, prosthetic devices and other measures they use to manage their impairments.
- Broadens the Definition of Regarded As – The ADAAA provides that an individual is “regarded as” having a disability if the employee establishes that he/she has been discriminated against because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment. However, the “regarded as” prong would not apply to transitory and minor impairments where the impairment is expected to last less than six months.The legislation also makes clear that employers will not be required to provide a reasonable accommodation to individuals that are regarded as disabled.
- Establishes New List of Major Life Activities – The ADAAA includes a new, non-exhaustive list of major life activities that will now include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. For the first time, major life activities will also include the operation of major bodily functions, including functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.