The post below is a guest blog from Laura Bibb, JD, who serves as the Compliance Officer for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody Employee Benefit Services.
On March 25, 2010, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued final regulations implementing the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Amendments Act, which was signed into law by George Bush on Sept. 25, 2008.
These regulations, which become effective May 24, 2011, provide clarification for the ADA Amendments Act. Specifically, the regulations state that the primary purpose of the ADA Amendments Act is to “make it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability within the meaning of the ADA.”
The ADA and the final regulations use a 3-prong approach to define disability:
- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or
- A record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limited a major life activity; or
- When a covered entity takes an action prohibited by the ADA because of an actual or perceived impairment that is not both transitory and minor.
The regulations confirm that the definition of “disability” is expansive and should be broadly construed. Additionally, the regulations identify the following specific impairments that will be easily concluded to be disabilities that substantially limit a major life activity:
- Intellectual disability
- Partially or completely missing limbs
- Mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair
- Cerebral palsy
- HIV infection
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Major depressive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
These regulations are intended to shift the focus away from the issue of whether someone is disabled to the issues of prohibited conduct and reasonable accommodations. What this means practically is that it will be easier to fall into the ADA definition of disabled and the court battles will likely be focused on whether an individual was denied reasonable accommodation.
For more information on the ADA and how it is also interacting with incentive-based corporate wellness programs, be sure to check out Hill, Chesson & Woody’s most recent Eyes on Benefits newsletter.