New ADA Employment Regulations Finalized
|Date Posted: March 24, 2011|
Regulations implementing changes to the Americans With Disabilities Act have been finalized and will take effect in May. The regulations, issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, apply the expanded coverage mandated by the ADA Amendments Act.
According to the commission, “the regulations are designed to simplify the determination of who has a ‘disability’ and make it easier for people to establish that they are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.” The EEOC issued proposed regulations in late 2009 and received more than 600 public comments. In response, several changes were made to the final product.
The commission initially proposed a list of impairments that would always be disabilities, but it scaled back its mandate in the final regulations, instead providing that some impairments, when subjected to an individualized assessment, “will, in virtually all cases,” be a disability. The commission also planned to include a list of impairments that will “usually not” be disabilities, but declined to do so in the final regulations after commenters expressed confusion over the provision.
The EEOC also had originally planned to remove the “condition, manner or duration” standard used to determine the extent to which an individual’s activities were limited. However, the commission said it determined that this standard may still be useful in certain cases.
The EEOC retained the familiar “class or broad range of jobs” standard used to determine whether an individual is substantially limited in the major life activity of working. While a new “type of work” standard was considered, the commission said it decided to keep the original language while making clear in the regulations’ appendix that “courts are to apply a lower standard in determining when an impairment substantially limits a major life activity, including the major life activity of working, than they applied prior to the Amendments Act.”
Some proposed provisions, however, made it though to the final regulations. As planned, the EEOC expanded on Congress’ list of major life activities, adding sitting, reaching and interacting with others. It also added to the law’s list of major bodily functions.
Also as proposed, only individuals with actual disabilities or a record of a disability are entitled to reasonable accommodations; individuals only regarded as disabled are not. Coverage for disabilities that are “episodic or in remission” was retained, and employers are still barred from considering mitigating measures when making disability determinations, as mandated by the Amendments Act.
The regulations will be printed in tomorrow’s Federal Register and will take effect in 60 days.