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ADA Amendments Act of 2008

(October 2, 2008) President Bush signed into law the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) on September 25th, which will amend the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and directly overturn several decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court interpreting that landmark law. Former President George H. W. Bush, who signed the original ADA in 1990, was in attendance during the signing at the Oval Office.

The primary consequences of these amendments to employers is that far more people will fall within the definition of disability under the ADA and reverses the earlier Supreme Court decisions that limited the rights of people with disabilities to sue employers that discriminate. Paul Tobin, President of United Spinal Association said "This Act will revive the protections of the ADA that have been eroded by the courts. It will help all Americans with disabilities, but we owe a special debt of gratitude to the honorable men and women who become disabled in the service of our country. This bill will help protect them - and all Americans with disabilities - from unlawful discrimination when they recover enough to re-enter the workforce."

From the The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Notice Concerning The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments Act Of 2008

On September 25, 2008, the President signed the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 ("ADA Amendments Act" or "Act"). The Act makes important changes to the definition of the term "disability" by rejecting the holdings in several Supreme Court decisions and portions of EEOC's ADA regulations. The Act retains the ADA's basic definition of "disability" as an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. However, it changes the way that these statutory terms should be interpreted in several ways. Most significantly, the Act:
  • directs EEOC to revise that portion of its regulations defining the term "substantially limits";
  • expands the definition of "major life activities" by including two non-exhaustive lists:
    • the first list includes many activities that the EEOC has recognized (e.g., walking) as well as activities that EEOC has not specifically recognized (e.g., reading, bending, and communicating);
    • the second list includes major bodily functions (e.g., "functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions);
  • states that mitigating measures other than "ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses" shall not be considered in assessing whether an individual has a disability";
  • clarifies that an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active;
  • provides that an individual subjected to an action prohibited by the ADA (e.g., failure to hire) because of an actual or perceived impairment will meet the "regarded as" definition of disability, unless the impairment is transitory and minor;
  • provides that individuals covered only under the "regarded as" prong are not entitled to reasonable accommodation; and
  • emphasizes that the definition of "disability" should be interpreted broadly.
EEOC will be evaluating the impact of these changes on its enforcement guidances and other publications addressing the ADA.

Effective Date:
The ADA Amendments Act is effective as of January 1, 2009.
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