• EEOC Issues Final Regulations Under ADAAA
  • April 1, 2011 | Authors: Stephanie J. Cebulski; William H. Fallon; Sarah K. Willey
  • Law Firm: Miller Johnson - Grand Rapids Office
  • Today, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published long-awaited final regulations interpreting the 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).  The regulations take effect on May 24, 2011.

    The ADAAA significantly expanded the definition of “disability” so that the ADA applies to more - arguably the vast majority of - individuals in the workplace.  In particular, the ADAAA required employers to refocus their attention on their duty to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities.  

    Although employers have been grappling with the ADAAA since 2008, the new regulations provide several important clarifications.  By way of example, the regulations:

    • Explicitly state that future ADA cases should focus not on whether an individual is disabled, but whether the employer complied with their obligations to provide a reasonable accommodation.

    • Reinforce that determining whether a particular impairment is a disability requires an individualized assessment.

    • Provide nine rules of construction to guide the analysis of whether an individual is disabled.

    • State that some impairments will virtually always be disabilities.  Those impairments are epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, HIV infection, and bipolar disorder. 

    • Require employers to treat an impairment that is episodic or in remission, such as cancer, as a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.

    • Add sitting, reaching and interacting with others as major life activities. 

    • Clarify that a disability “discrimination” claim does not require an actual “disability,” but can be based on any impairment that is not both “minor and transitory.”

    This is an excellent opportunity for employers to revisit their policies and procedures for compliance with the ADA and the new regulations, and to ensure they are prepared to manage the reasonable accommodation process as now required.