Labor: Entering a new paradigm with reasonable accommodation

How the EEOC’s final regulations implementing the ADAAA affects employers.

With the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) regulations now in effect to implement the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), employers have entered a new paradigm for evaluating reasonable accommodation requests by employees.

In years past, one of the primary focuses in evaluating a reasonable accommodation request was to determine if the employee making the request truly had a disability within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If the employee did not have such a disability, the employer had no duty to provide reasonable accommodation. Many employees who filed suits against their employers under the ADA ended up having their claims dismissed on summary judgment for failure to meet the predicate element that they had a disability within the meaning of the ADA. This included, for example, litigants with epilepsy, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, major depression and bipolar disorder.

The EEOC’s regulations also list of examples of major life activities:

  • Caring for oneself
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Walking
  • Standing
  • Sitting
  • Reaching
  • Lifting
  • Bending
  • Speaking
  • Breathing
  • Learning
  • Reading
  • Concentrating
  • Thinking
  • Communicating
  • Interacting with others
  • Working

Also under the new law, impairments that are episodic in nature or are in remission can qualify as disabilities if the impairment would substantially limit a major life activity when active. Not only will those with cancer in remission have protection under the ADA but also those with epilepsy, hypertension, asthma, diabetes, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Managing Shareholder

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Steve Moore

Steve Moore is the managing shareholder of Ogletree Deakins' Denver office. In addition to litigating single- and multi-plaintiff cases, Moore has represented employers against class...

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