Who Now Qualifies as a Disabled Employee?

Tue Apr 5, 2011 11:54pm EDT

So what is a disability, anyway? Well, the feds have changed the definition and it may mean changes for business owners.

Last week, the EEOC issued final guidelines implementing the ADA Amendments Act, expanding the definition of "disability" to include significantly more ailments.

If you have fifteen or more employees, the ADA and ADA Amendments Act apply to you.

If this is the case, pay attention. The new guidelines will be changing the way you handle disabled employees and reasonable accommodations.

According to the EEOC, the ADA Amendments Act of 2009 was designed to overturn Supreme Court decisions that limited the scope of the original ADA. Its sole intent was to instruct courts to interpret "disability" broadly.

This means marginally disabled employees are now protected by the ADA.

The new EEOC interpretation of "disability" does not require that a condition severely or significantly restrict a major life activity. Nor does it take into consideration mitigating measures, such as a hearing aids, medication, or therapy.

Conditions that are episodic (epilepsy) or in remission (cancer) are now disabilities under the new EEOC rules. Moreover, the EEOC press release explains that "disability" now also includes conditions that impact major bodily functions.

This means that impairments of the immune system, cell growth, brain, and endocrine system are disabilities even if they don't cause day to day problems.

Business groups don't expect these changes to be overly burdensome, reports Bloomberg.

However, to minimize any impact, it is very important to become familiar with the ADA Amendments Act and the new EEOC rules, as well as to consult an employment attorney in marginal cases. Employment discrimination attorneys are expecting a jump in lawsuits.

Related Resources:

  • New regulations to add millions to pool of those protected by Americans with Disabilities Act (American Independent)
  • Regulations To Implement the Equal Employment Provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act, as Amended (Federal Register)
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act - Overview (FindLaw)
  • Discrimination in Hiring and the Americans with Disability Act (FindLaw)
  • Disability Discrimination Facts (FindLaw)
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