The questions: Does the ADA Amendments Act cover accommodation requests made on or after Sep. 25, 2008, the day President Bush signed the act? Or does the act cover only requests filed on or after Jan. 1, 2009, the effective date written into the law?
Answer: The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeals have held that the ADAAA does not apply retroactively. In general, the federal courts have determined that Congress indicated no intent that ADAAA cases in effect at the signing date would be covered by the new law.
That, of course, is good news for employers and HR managers. The ADA amendments mostly make it easier for employees to win accommodations and put a greater burden on employers to offer accommodations. Specifically, the new law says employers will have to:
- make accommodations and treat as disabled any applicant or employee who qualifies as such, without regard to mitigating measures. Previously, the Supreme Court had ruled that mitigating measures such as medications or prosthetics would take the employee out of the official category of “disabled” and exempt the employer from offering workplace accommodations.
- take into account a broader range of activities, or “functions,” that are considered when classifying a worker as disabled: performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working. None of those appeared in the pre-Jan. 1, 2009, ADA regs.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers guidance on the ADA amendment in the form of a new publication, “The Americans with Disabilities Act: Applying Performance and Conduct Standards to Employees with Disabilities.”