Summary of ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA)
On September 25, 2008, President Bush signed the ADA Amendment Act
(ADAAA) into law. It's effective date is January 1, 2009. The U.S.
Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives both unanimously passed
The ADAAA focuses on the discrimination at issue instead of the individual's disability. It makes important changes to the definition of the term "disability" by rejecting the holdings in several Supreme Court decisions and portions of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) ADA regulations. The Act retains the ADA's basic definition of "disability" as an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. However, it changes the way that the statutory terms should be interpreted.
Changes in Statutory Interpretation of Terms
- Expands the definition of "major life activities" by including two non-exhaustive lists:
- The first list includes many activities that the EEOC has recognized (e.g., walking) as well as activities that EEOC has not specifically recognized (e.g., reading, bending, and communicating);
- The second list includes major bodily functions (e.g., "functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, respiratory, neurological, brain, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions");
- States that mitigating measures other than "ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses" shall not be considered in assessing whether an individual has a disability;
- Clarifies that an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active;
- Directs EEOC to revise the portion of its regulations that defines the term "substantially limits";
- Provides that an individual subjected to an action prohibited by the ADA (e.g., failure to hire) because of an actual or perceived impairment will meet the "regarded as" definition of disability, unless the impairment is transitory and minor;
- Provides that individuals covered only under the "regarded as" prong are not entitled to reasonable accommodation; and
- Emphasizes that the definition of "disability" should be interpreted broadly.
The ADAAA does not state that it shall be applied retroactively. Therefore, under Landgraf v. USI Film Products, 511 US 244 (1994), most courts have held that the ADAAA is not applicable to cases pending before its effective date.
However, in Jenkins v. Nat'l Bd. of Med. Examiners, No. 08-5371 (6th Cir. 2009), the Sixth Circuit held that the ADA Amendments Act applies to cases pending before enactment when the relief sought is prospective in nature (i.e. an injunction ordering reasonable accommodation).
Further, in dicta in Rohr v. Salt River Project, No. 06-16527 (9th Cir. 2009), the court observed that the ADA Amendments Act can be considered when examining cases under the original ADA as the ADAAA "sheds light on Congress' original intent when it enacted the ADA." The holding is dicta because the court found that the individual was covered under the ADA even without the amendments. Links to these two cases are at the bottom of this Article.
Text of the ADA, as Amended
The ADAAA amendments are primarily found in new 42 USC section 12102, Definition of Disability, which is set forth in full below
§ 12102. Definition of disability
As used in this Act:
(1) Disability. The term "disability" means, with respect to an individual--
(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
(B) a record of such an impairment; or
(C) being regarded as having such an impairment (as described in paragraph (3)).
(2) Major life activities.
(3) Regarded as having such an impairment. For purposes of paragraph (1)(C):
The ADAAA also amends 42 USC Sections 12101, 12111, 12112, 12113 and 12208, as well as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 USC 705 (incorporating the amendments to the ADA.
- none entered.
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