President Bush will sign legislation amending the Americans with Disabilities Act, which overwhelmingly passed through Congress. The ADA Amendments Act is designed to convey Congressional intent that “the primary object of attention in cases brought under the ADA should be whether entities covered under the ADA have complied with their obligations, and to convey that the question of whether an individual’s impairment is a disability under the ADA should not demand extensive analysis.”
The goal of expanding the coverage of the ADA is achieved by changing the definition of “disability” to:
- Prohibit the consideration of measures that reduce or mitigate the impact of impairment—such as medication, prosthetics and assistive technology—in determining whether an individual has a disability under the law.
- Cover workers whose employers discriminate against them based on a perception that the worker is impaired, regardless of whether the worker has a disability.
- Clarify that the law provides broad coverage to protect anyone who faces discrimination on the basis of a disability.
Congress expressly reversed several Supreme Court decisions that restricted the scope of the ADA. Congress rejected the standard that ameliorative effects of mitigating measures must be considered in determining whether a person is disabled found in Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc. Congress also rebuked the Court in its restrictive interpretation of “disability” by rejecting the terms “substantially limits ” and “significantly restricted” because the terms as outlined in Toyota Motor Mfg, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams are too narrow.
The ADA amendments will refocus disability discrimination lawsuits downplaying the examination of whether an employee meets the definition of disability. Daniel Schwartz of the Connecticut Employment Law Blog discusses the practical impacts.