EEOC Proposes ADA Amendments Act Changes

September 18, 2009 ( - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) revising its regulations to conform to changes made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA).

An EEOC press release says the NPRM makes several significant changes to the definition of the term “disability” as necessitated by enactment of the ADAAA. Consistent with the ADAAA, the NPRM emphasizes that the definition of disability — an impairment that poses a substantial limitation in a major life activity — must be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA, and should not require extensive analysis; that major life activities include “major bodily functions;” that mitigating measures, such as medications and devices that people use to reduce or eliminate the effects of an impairment, are not to be considered when determining whether someone has a disability; and that impairments that are episodic or in remission, such as epilepsy, cancer, and many kinds of psychiatric impairments, are disabilities if they would “substantially limit” major life activities when active.

The regulation also provides a more straightforward way of demonstrating a substantial limitation in the major life activity of working, and implements the ADAAA’s new standard for determining whether someone is “regarded as” having a disability, according to the press release.

A 60-day public comment period on the proposed rule-making will officially commence upon publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register , which is expected the week of September 21, 2009.

The ADA Amendments Act, which went into effect January 1, 2009 (see Bush Pens ADA Change Bill into Law ), makes changes to the definition of the term “disability,” by adding definitions of “substantially limits” and “major life activity” to the law. The new law provides a list of activities that constitute major life activities.

In addition, the bill instructs courts that the “question of whether an individual’s impairment is a disability under the ADA should not demand extensive analysis.”

The ADAAA states that Congress expects the EEOC to revise its regulations to conform to changes made by the Act, and expressly authorizes the EEOC to do so. In December 2008, a then four-member commission stalled on issuing a rule implementing provisions of the ADAAA (see Implementing EEOC Rule for ADA Changes Stalls ), but a vacancy in the commission resulted in a vote in June for revising the regulations (see EEOC Votes to Conform to ADA Amendments Act ).