The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published final regulations implementing the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA). The regulations are designed to simplify the determination of who has a "disability" and make it easier for some individuals to establish that they are protected by the ADA.
The ADAAA, which went into effect on January 1, 2009, rejected several Supreme Court decisions that Congress believed had interpreted the ADA's definition of "disability" too narrowly. It also directed the EEOC to revise its regulations to conform to the changes made by the Act. The EEOC issued proposed regulations later that year, and received 600 comments from a range of stakeholders.
The final regulations are somewhat scaled back and more flexible than the proposed regulations. Instead of providing a list of impairments that would "consistently," "sometimes," or "usually not" be disabilities, as had been done in the proposed regulations, the final regulations provide "rules of construction" to guide the analysis. In other instances, the final regulations modify or remove language that groups representing employer or disablity interests had found confusing or had interpreted in a manner not intended by the EEOC.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has applauded the EEOC's work on the new regulations, saying they reflect a carefully crafted compromise between the business community and the disability community that was passed by the House and the Senate without dissent.
The Commission has also released two question-and-answer documents to aid employers in understanding the law and new regulations. A copy of these documents, a fact sheet and the new regulations are available at www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/adaaa_info.cfm.