The term “disabled” will apply to more employees with a broader range of impairments, and make it easier for employees to establish protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
What qualifies as a disability? The same definition applies: “a physical of mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record (or past history) of such an impairment; or being regarded as having a disability.” The change is how the new law interprets this definition. For example, an impairment does not have to severely restrict performance to be considered a disability. As another example, conditions that aren’t necessarily impairments except when active, such as epilepsy or cancer in remission, are considered disabilities whether active or not.
In addition, “major life activities” include, among others, eating, standing, thinking, communicating, and sleeping as well as major bodily functions.
How will the new regulations affect employers? Employers will no longer focus on whether or not an employee is “disabled.” Instead employers will focus on ensuring the proper accommodations are in place for these disabilities.
To ensure your company is in compliance with the new regulations:
1. Make sure all job descriptions full list all essential job functions.
2. Review policies and employee handbooks to make sure they are consistent with the ADAAA.
3. Review applications for anything that might be interpreted as an inquiry about an applicant’s disability.
4. Document all employment actions involving a disabled (or formerly disabled) employee.