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ADA Changes
EEOC, 06-Jul-09

There are changes coming to the ADA based on the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.



The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) voted Wednesday (June 17) to move forward with revising its regulations to conform to changes made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), which would make it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability. Last December, the agency considered proposed regulations but deferred any action. Many observers attributed the delay to the Democratic members of the commission who wanted to wait until after President Barack Obama was inaugurated and a new administration in place.

The Commission voted 2-1 to adopt the rules changes at a public meeting this morning at the agency’s Washington headquarters. The five-member body has two vacancies.

The rules changes represent an initial stage in the regulatory process and must next go to the Office of Management and Budget for review, as well as to affected federal agencies. Only after this process is complete will the EEOC publish a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) for public comment. Under the agency’s regulatory timetable, the publication of such an NPRM is to occur in August 2009, although the date may be pushed back to the fall, depending on other federal agencies’ comments.

“In approving these proposed regulations, the EEOC today is taking a significant step toward returning the ADA to the broad and strong civil rights statute that Congress originally intended it to be,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “The proposed regulations will permit individuals with disabilities to participate to the fullest extent possible in the American workplace.”

Acting EEOC Vice Chair Christine M. Griffin said, “Today’s vote is historic. These regulations will serve to shift the focus of the courts from further narrowing the definition of disability and putting it back to where Congress intended when the ADA was enacted in 1990. Courts should now focus on whether discrimination based on disability is occurring in the workplace. The protections afforded by the ADAAA and these new regulations are important for all workers including our returning wounded warriors who certainly deserve the right to re-enter a workforce free of discrimination.”

The need for new regulations was prompted by the ADAAA, which took effect January 1, 2009. In enacting the amendments, Congress specifically told the EEOC to write new regulations to conform to the more liberal definition of “disability” set forth in the ADAAA. The amendments emphasize that the definition should be construed broadly in favor of coverage of individuals with physical or mental impairments. It’s expected that the EEOC’s proposed regulations will embody this Congressional sentiment.