EEOC Issues Draft of Regulations for 2008 Amendments to ADA

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its proposed regulations and interpretive guidelines for implementation of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 in September. The rules and regulations are open for public debate and the EEOC is planning to hold town hall sessions in November to allow input from the business community. The introduction to the proposed rules states that the effect of these changes is to “make it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability within the meaning of the ADA.”

Defining Disability
The 2008 amendment to the ADA does not change the basic definition of a disability as: “a impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.” However, it does change the way these statutory terms should be interpreted.

The proposed regulations expand the definition of major life activities through two non-exhaustive lists. The first includes activities such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping and walking. The second includes major bodily functions, such as function of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, respiratory and reproductive functions. With these two expanded lists, the concept of daily life activities takes on a much broader meaning.

Mitigating Measures
Under the 2008 amendment, the therapeutic effects of mitigating measures shall not be considered in determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity. Under the proposed rules, mitigating measures include but are not limited to:
  • medication;  
  • medical supplies;
  • equipment or appliances;
  • low vision devices;
  • prosthetics, including limbs and devices;
  • hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices; and
  • mobility devices or oxygen therapy equipment and supplies.
Many chronic illnesses or conditions that can be easily treated with medication now take on the potential mantle of being a disabling condition since mitigating measures like medications cannot be considered. Only the beneficial effects of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses shall be considered when determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity.

These are just a few of the examples of the major changes found within the proposed regulations. It is encouraged that all employers review carefully the proposed regulations. More information will be provided as the proposed regulations proceed through the review process.

Author: Charles Smith

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