Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) in 2008 with the intent to focus trials on whether discrimination occurred instead of whether an impairment is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). With the burden of proof now shifted to the employer, it is important for HR departments to be aware of and up to date with the act’s revisions. Knowing the details of the ADAAA will help your organization stay compliant with the law and avoid a lawsuit and accompanying fees.
Here are four things you should know about this act—
1. The definition of a disability is broader.
The original ADA stated that a disability was anything that substantially limits a major life activity. Now that the list of “major life” activities has expanded, more employees are covered under the revised act and can potentially claim a disability.
2. Mitigating factors do not determine whether an employee has a disability.
Under the ADAAA, mitigating measures, which can reduce or eliminate a disability’s effect can’t be considered when an employer or a court is determining whether an employee has a protected disability. Eye glasses are the one exception to this rule.
3. The definition of “reasonable accommodation” is unchanged.
The act clarifies that only individuals who have an impairment that limits a major life activity and a record of the impairment are eligible to receive reasonable accommodation. It is important to note that employers have flexibility under this section of the act. They are not required to fulfill the employee’s exact request if suitable alternatives are available.
4. Documenting is your best protection.
As with most human resources situations, documenting all steps in your process is key to protecting yourself against an unfavorable lawsuit outcome. Before making any reasonable accommodations for your employees, you should request from them documentation by a medical professional affirming their disability. Document all the steps you take in ensuring that your company is doing its best to accommodate employees without undue hardship on its end.
With the ADAAA in full effect, employers should review their handbook policies regarding disabilities and requesting reasonable accommodation. Your company’s employee handbook should include the new definition of a disability. Training your managers with direct reports on how to adequately respond to disability mentions and accommodation requests will also help you stay out of the courthouse.
Labor and employment lawyers from Ogletree Deakins will discuss the ADAAA in more detail at CAI’s 2012 Employment and Labor Law Update on May 2 and May 3. In addition to a review of the ADAAA, conference presenters will give participants updates on the most recent news and changes in state and federal employment laws. Additional topics include: workers’ compensation, healthcare reform, FLSA exemptions and more. Register for the conference today: www.capital.org/lawupdate.
Photo Source: Leo Reynolds