Americans with Disabilities Act: Big Changes in 2009
Historically, those seeking protection from employment discrimination on the basis of their disability have been traveling down a challenging road.
The promise of 1990’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was dimmed a decade later by United States Supreme Court interpretations that made it extremely difficult for a person to prove they were “disabled” in a legal sense. Supreme Court decisions in 1999 and 2002 reduced a person’s ability to demonstrate that they were entitled to protections under the ADA. While the ADA was designed to protect individuals with disabilities from employment discrimination, individuals who were no longer limited in their life functions through the use of medication or other mitigating actions frequently discovered they were not protected by the ADA.
Now Congress has passed, and President Bush has signed, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 – a law that attempts to restore ADA back to its original intent. Under the new amendments, effective January 1, 2009, the determination of whether a person has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, a “disability” in the legal sense under the ADA, must be made, with a few exceptions, without regard to the beneficial effects of a mitigating action, such as taking medication. In addition, the amendments require that the disability only has to limit one major life activity.
While beneficial to the worker, these amendments will provide more certainty in the interpretation of the ADA for companies, as well. Not only will the amendments make it easier for workers to establish they are disabled, but they will also improve a company’s ability to determine whether they are dealing with a worker who is disabled, especially when the worker asks for an accommodation based on their impairment. This provides forward-thinking companies the opportunity to establish effective human resource management policies that facilitate disabled workers.
It is extremely important that human resource managers understand the significance of these amendments. To that end, the Florida Commission on Human Relations offers workshops and an annual Employment Law Conference to keep individuals informed of their rights and responsibilities under state and federal anti-discrimination laws. By learning more about these important laws, business owners and managers can avoid costly lawsuits, decreased productivity, and low employee morale.
For more information about the Florida Commission on Human Relations, our upcoming Florida Employment Law Conference or the trainings we offer, please visit our website at http://fchr.state.fl.us