Last week, the Senate unanimously approved its version of the ADA Amendments Act.
The bill is similar to the version passed by a landslide in the House of Representatives in June.
There is one important change in the current version: the definition of “substantially limits” (as in, a disability must substantially limit a major life activity to get ADA protection). The House bill defined “substantially limits” as “materially restricts” — a phrase which also has no established legal meaning.
The Senate bill omits that redefinition.
Other significant overhauls of the ADA remain. Here’s what the bill will change:
- More “major life activities” — The bill gives a hefty list of examples of what’s considered a major life activity, which would expand the definition beyond what most courts have ruled. (The list of examples: “caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working.”)
- No mitigating measures — The amendments would also reverse a Supreme Court decision that allows the consideration of “mitigating measures” — i.e., medicine or equipment that lessens an impairment — when deciding whether an employee is disabled.
- Protection for conditions in remission — If a condition is in remission, the employee will still be ADA-protected if the condition would qualify as a disability when active.
The House is expected to vote on the new version of the bill as early as September 17. President Bush will most likely sign it into law. We’ll keep you posted.