Wednesday, June 17, 2009

EEOC Votes to Adopt Rules Change to ADA

The EEOC voted 2-1 today to revise its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations to comply with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA).

In an EEOC press release, issued today, Vice Chair Christine Griffin provided some vague indication of the pending changes:
“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 ADA AA 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.”
Well, this is really just a restatement of the purpose for which the ADAAA was passed in the first place.

The ADAAA expressly authorizes the EEOC to pass regulations in accordance with the Act. The EEOC's definition of "substantially limits" is of particular interest. The ADA defines a disability, in part, as an "impairment that substantially limits [a] major life activit[y]".

The current EEOC regulations define substantially limits as "significantly restricted." The ADAAA tells the EEOC that this definition is "inconsistent with congressional intent, by expressing too high a standard." And Congress also expressed its expectation that the EEOC will "revise that portion of its current regulations."

A few months ago I attended a webinar on the ADAAA where the new definition was rumored to be "materially restricts" which appeared in some House reports. I'm waiting to see if that will in fact be the final definition. Even if it is, what the heck does "materially restricts" mean?

I expect the new regulations will provide some answers, but as with any new law or regulation it may provide just as many new questions!


Notice: For some unknown reason, Feedburner decided not to send out the email featuring yesterday's entry. Click here to read about the classification of exotic dancers under the FLSA.