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EEOC Releases Its Final Regulations Implementing the ADA Amendments Act

March 25, 2011

On March 24, 2011, more than two years after the effective date of the Americans With Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) signed by President George W. Bush, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its final rule implementing the statute.  As we previously reported, the ADAAA made significant changes to the meaning of "disability."  While the actual definition of "disability" - a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities - did not change, the ADAAA greatly expanded the definition of "mental or physical impairment" and "major life activities," thereby encompassing more conditions and, thus, protecting more individuals under the statute.  The ADAAA also lowered the threshold for establishing that an impairment "substantially limits" a major life activity.

On September 23, 2009, the EEOC released its proposed regulations, inviting public comments.  The EEOC received more than 600 comments.  Its 2011 final rule, which accounts for many of those comments, differs from the 2009 proposed regulations in a number of ways:

With the final rule in place, employers subject to the ADA will need to be ever more cautious about denying accommodation requests, as more and more individuals will fall under the statute as having a "disability."  Employers must, therefore, give heightened attention to the interactive process during which they analyze whether an individual is entitled to an accommodation and might select an appropriate accommodation.  In addition, "regarded as" cases are likely to be more prevalent, since they can be triggered by any perceived impairment, with or without any perceived substantial limitation, so employers must be careful not to inject disability issues into personnel matters unnecessarily.

The final ADAAA regulations are available to the public and are scheduled to be printed in the Federal Register on March 25, 2011.

For additional information, contact Miller Canfield's Labor and Employment Group.

Megan Norris

Scott Eldridge