On September 17th, the United States House of Representatives passed the Senate version of the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (“ADAA”). The bill has now been sent to President Bush, who states that he will sign it. The amendments reflect the broadest changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) since its enactment in 1990.
In June 2008, the House of Representatives passed the ADA Amendment Act of 2008. (See Proposed Amendments to ADA Restore Disability Discrimination Protections, June 28, 2008.) Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed its own version of the ADA Amendment Act. A conformed version will be submitted to the President for signature within the next several weeks.
Under the American Disabilities Act (ADA), it is a violation of an employee’s federally protected rights for an employer not to make reasonable accommodations for known physical or mental limitations of an employee, or job applicant, who is otherwise a qualified individual. 29 C.F.R. § 1630.9(a). The ADA requires that an employer engage in an interactive process with an employee to determine the extent of a reasonable accommodation that will permit an employee to perform the essential functions of a job. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently ruled in Brady v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. that an employer’s duty to make a reasonable accommodation is triggered when it knows or has reason to know that an employee suffers from a disability, and not just when an employee provides notice of a disability or requests an accommodation. The Second Circuit covers New York, Vermont and Connecticut.
Introduced and passed, 402 to 17, in the House of Representatives, the ADA Amendment Act of 2008 is geared to the restoration of the intent and protections of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Operating from the position that “physical and mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society,” Congress passed the ADA with the intent to broadly eliminate “prejudice, antiquated attitudes, [and] the failure to remove societal and institutional barriers” that have frequently precluded persons with disabilities from fully engaging in society. Plainly put, the ADA Amendment Act will restore protections against disability discrimination to a broader range of individuals.