Summary of the EEOC’s Final Regulations for the ADAAA – What Companies Should Know (Part Two)

Last week I summarized the new ADA regulations issued by the EEOC; therefore, I figured this week I would focus on some of the nuances of the regulations that are worth keeping an eye on.

While it is clear the definition of disability is to be construed broadly, the EEOC has also provided nine rules of construction to use when determining whether an individual is substantially limited in performing a major life activity:

(1) The term “substantially limits” shall be construed broadly in favor of expansive coverage, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA. “Substantially limits” is not meant to be a demanding standard. 

(2) An impairment is a disability within the meaning of this section if it substantially limits the ability of an individual to perform a major life activity as compared to most people in the general population. An impairment need not prevent, or significantly or severely restrict, the individual from performing a major life activity in order to be considered substantially limiting. Nonetheless, not every impairment will constitute a disability within the meaning of this section.

(3) The primary object of attention in cases brought under the ADA should be whether covered entities have complied with their obligations and whether discrimination has occurred, not whether an individual’s impairment substantially limits a major life activity. Accordingly, the threshold issue of whether an impairment “substantially limits” a major life activity should not demand extensive analysis.

(4) The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity requires an individualized assessment. However, in making this assessment, the term “substantially limits” shall be interpreted and applied to require a degree of functional limitation that is lower than the standard for “substantially limits” applied prior to the ADAAA.

(5) The comparison of an individual’s performance of a major life activity to the performance of the same major life activity by most people in the general population usually will not require scientific, medical, or statistical analysis. Nothing in this paragraph is intended, however, to prohibit the presentation of scientific, medical, or statistical evidence to make such a comparison where appropriate.

(6) The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures. However, the ameliorative effects of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses shall be considered in determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity.

(7) An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.

(8) An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not substantially limit other major life activities in order to be considered a substantially limiting impairment.

(9) The six-month ‘‘transitory’’ part of “transitory and minor” exception to “regarded as” coverage does not apply to the definition of “disability” under the first prong (“actual disability”) or second prong (“record of” a disability). The effects of an impairment lasting or expected to last fewer than six months can be substantially limiting within the meaning of this section.

And for those keeping up with the differences between the proposed and final regulations — the EEOC explained the differences between the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) issued in September 2009 and the final regulations:

  • Instead of providing a list of impairments that would “consistently,” “sometimes,” or “usually not” be disabilities (as had been done in the NPRM), the final regulations provide the nine rules of construction to guide the analysis and explain that by applying those principles, there will be some impairments that virtually always constitute a disability. The regulations also provide examples of impairments that should easily be concluded to be disabilities, including epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, HIV infection, and bipolar disorder.
  • Language in the NPRM describing how to demonstrate that an individual is substantially limited in “working” has been deleted from the final regulations and moved to the appendix (consistent with how other major life activities are addressed). The final regulations also retain the existing familiar language of “class or broad range of jobs” rather than introducing a new term, and they provide examples of individuals who could be considered substantially limited in working.
  • The final regulations retain the concepts of “condition, manner, or duration” that the NPRM had proposed to delete and explain that while consideration of these factors may be unnecessary to determine whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity, they may be relevant in certain cases.

If you want to read more about the regulations, the EEOC has a Question and Answer sheet available here.

About Ashley Kasarjian

Attorney at Snell & Wilmer L.L.P., and publisher of the independent blog, Employment and the Law.
This entry was posted in ADA, EEOC and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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