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ADA Amendments Act Minimize

The ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA, Public Law 110-325), signed into law on September 25, 2008, took effect on January 1, 2009. This new law in essence will result in more people enjoying protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The law does so by making important changes to the definition of a disability, which has been a cornerstone of the law since its inception. Employers need to be aware of the changes, how they will affect them, and what to do.

The original ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants or employees on the basis of a disability. The new law aims to make the standards and guidelines clearer for use in everyday life.

Definition Changes and Differences in the ADA and the ADAAA

ADA

ADAAA

Qualified individuals with disabilities:
Those who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.
 

Qualified individuals with disabilities:
This definition has not changed.

Disability:
A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. An individual is considered be disabled if he or she has an impairment, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.
 

Disability:
The basic definition has not changed; however, terms within the definition have been redefined.

Substantially limits:
Significantly restricted as to the condition, manner or duration under which an  individual can perform a major life activity as compared to the condition, manner, or duration under which the average person in the general population can perform that same major life activity
 

Substantially limits:
This term can no longer be used; it creates ?too high a standard.? ?Substantially limits? has been left to be defined in future Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulatory revisions.

Major life activities:
The original regulations cover broad categories such as caring for oneself and also operations of major body functions.
 

Major life activities:
Expanded upon the ADA. With this expanded list, it will most likely be easier for more people to be considered disabled. *

Mitigating measures:
Employers could consider items in the following list to determine if an employee had a disablity.

Medication

Medical supplies

Medical equipment

Medical appliances

Prosthetics

Hearing aids

Mobility devices

Assistive technology

Reasonable accommodations

Auxiliary aids or services

Learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications
 

Mitigating measures:
Employers can no longer consider ?mitigating measures? in determining whether or not an individual has a disability. Under the new law, if an employee has epilepsy, for example, and controls the condition with medication, the employee may still be considered to be disabled, despite the beneficial effects of the medication. Prior to the ADAAA, this employee would not be considered disabled because the condition was controlled, and would not have the protections of the law.

Note: The new law does provide that ordinary eyeglasses and contact lenses are not considered mitigating measures, so employees who use them need not be considered disabled.

Episodic impairments:
Chronic or episodic disorders that are substantially limiting when active or have a high likelihood of recurrence in substantially limiting forms may be disabilities.

Episodic impairments:
Impairments that are episodic or may be in remission are a disability if when active, they would substantially limit a major life activity. For example, someone who suffers from migraines, would be considered disabled if, when a migraine does occur, it substantially limits a major life activity. Because the condition meets the legal definition, Rose would be protected by the law and may need a reasonable accommodation.
 

Regarded as:
The employee needs to prove that he or she has a true impairment that rises to the level of a disability.

Regarded as:
Employees will meet the ?regarded as? prong of the definition if they are subject to discrimination because of an actual or perceived impairment ? whether or not it limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity; whether or not it rises to the level of a disability. If the employer treats an employee as though he has an impairment (even if it isn?t a disability), he is protected by the law.

The employee no longer needs to prove that the impairment rises to the level of a disability.
 

Reasonable accommodation:
Any change in the work environment or in the way things are usually done that result in equal employment opportunity for an individual with a disability. You must make a reasonable accommodation to the known limitations of a qualified applicant or employee with a disability unless your company can show that the accommodation would cause an undue hardship on the operation of your business.
 

Reasonable accommodation:
This definition has not changed.

Undue hardship:
An action that is excessively costly, extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.

Undue Hardship:
This definition has not changed.

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