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EEOC Announces New Regulations For ADAAA

Published by on April 1, 2011

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced the final regulations to implement the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA).   The ADAAA went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009 and directed the EEOC to revise its regulations to conform to changes made by the ADAAA.  In a press release regarding the new regulations, the EEOC stated […]

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced the final regulations to implement the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA).   The ADAAA went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009 and directed the EEOC to revise its regulations to conform to changes made by the ADAAA.  In a press release regarding the new regulations, the EEOC stated that “Like the law they implement, 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 (ADA).”  More after the break.

The regulations set forth a list of guidelines to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADAAA. For example, the regulations provide that an “impairment” need not prevent or severely or significantly restrict performance of a “major life activity” to be considered “substantially limiting.”  The final regulations also direct that the positive (or ameliorative) effects from an individual’s use of one or more mitigating measures, except for eyeglasses or contact lenses, be ignored in determining if an impairment substantially limits a major life activity.  Although the regulations provide that not every impairment will constitute a disability, the regulations state that whether an impairment is a disability should be construed broadly, to the maximum extent allowable under the law, requires an individualized assessment, and should not require extensive analysis.

Additionally, the ADAAA and the final regulations specifically state that an impairment that is episodic or in remission meets the definition of disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active. Chronic impairments with symptoms or effects that are episodic rather than present all the time can be a disability even if the symptoms or effects would only substantially limit a major life activity when the impairment is active.  The EEOC stated that examples of impairments that may be episodic include epilepsy, hypertension, asthma, diabetes, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and cancer that is in remission but that may possibly return in a substantially limiting form.

Following the dictates of the ADAAA, the regulations also make it easier for individuals to establish coverage under the “regarded as” part of the definition of disability.  Under the new regulations, the focus is on how the person was treated, subject to certain defenses, rather than on what an employer might have believed about the nature of the person’s impairment.

The EEOC has released several documents about the regulations to aid the public and employers in understanding the new regulations.  The ADAAA regulations, accompanying documents, and a fact sheet are available on the EEOC website.

Contributed by Laura B. Chaimowitz

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