Understanding The A.D.A. Amendments Act

Category: Employment Law
Posted: 09-03-2012 09:09 PM
Views: 1329
Synopsis:

In 2008, the American's with Disability Amendments Act or ADAA was signed into law expanding the ADA.  Over the years the courts had narrowed the view of what is considered a disability in the workplace.  The ADAA was signed into law to clarify the original intent of the law and broaden the definition of disability.  Now, many more people are covered.  This can cause confusion among managers in many organizations.  Making sure your managers are given ADA Training is the most important first step to insure you are in compliance.

In 2008, the American's with Disability Amendments Act or ADAA was signed into law expanding the ADA.  Over the years the courts had narrowed the view of what is considered a disability in the workplace.  The ADAA was signed into law to clarify the original intent of the law and broaden the definition of disability.  Now, many more people are covered.  This can cause confusion among managers in many organizations.  Making sure your managers are given ADA Training is the most important first step to insure you are in compliance.

The original ADA act of 1990, defined a disability as an impairment that substantially limits the participation in major life activities.  This vague definition was in large part responsible for the narrowing by the courts.  In the ADAA, the wording actually defines specific major life activities: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working are all included.  In addition, the ADAA actually lists major bodily functions that should be covered by act - functions of the immune system; normal cell growth; and digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.  The act specifically mentions that the major bodily functions and major life activities that are listed are not the only activities covered and that the act is not limited to these activities.

The ruling also made clear that medical science that assists an individual with a disability do not preclude them coverage under the act.  For instance, while medication for heart disease or Parkinson's disease or a prosthetic leg might greatly assist a disabled person these accommodations cannot be used to determine that that person can perform major life activities.  In addition, a disability that are episodic or in remission (such as Lupus) are to be assessed in their active state when determining coverage under the act.

The act also states that a disabled person cannot be discriminated against due to perceptions about their disability.  For instance, a deaf person cannot be denied a promotion because their manager believes that they won't be able to communicate well in a management position.  Another example would be denying a job applicant with facial disfigurement a sales position because the interviewer believed that it would be uncomfortable for customers to see the applicant.

The law requires that employers make accommodations for disabled workers so that they may equal opportunities in the workplace.  An accommodation is any change in the work environment.  If the change is an undo hardship to the employer, then they are exempted, however most accommodations are not considered an undue hardship.  Most accommodations are not very expensive.  They can be as simple as changing the office furniture in a work station or making a work schedule more flexible.   Sometimes accommodations are more expensive, however most of the time they are far less expensive than the huge costs of replacing an employee and therefore would be considered reasonable.

While the law can be confusing to managers, the best way to handle this confusion is to reasonably accommodate disabilities rather than spending valuable time trying to determine if an employee has a disability.   This simple advice falls within the spirit of the law.  The ADA was passed to make sure that everyone with a disability has an equal opportunity to succeed in the workplace.   There are 44 million Americans who are considered disabled under the law and in those millions is a huge amount of talent that can benefit our country and our economy.

Charlie Bentson King is the VP for creative content for TrainingABC - a distributor of ADA compliance training DVDs.


 

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