Proposed Law to Protect Disabled Employees From Discrimination

House of Representatives Approves Amendments to Restore the Americans With Disabilities Act to Protect Disabled Employees From Discrimination.

On June 25, 2008, the United States House of Representatives approved an amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) by a vote of 402 to 17. The ADA is a federal law which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, both in the context of employment and places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and day care centers. However, courts have interpreted the ADA so narrowly that according to at least one study over 97% of cases filed under the ADA are dismissed, primarily due to the fact that the individual bringing the case could not meet the statute’s definition of “disability.”

The United States Senate still has not voted on the bill, which is known as the ADA Restoration Act of 2008. If the Senate were to approve the Act, it would need to be signed into law by the President before it would go into effect.

The ADA Restoration Act of 2008 is “intended to restore the original intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If passed into law, it would reverse many United States Supreme Court cases which have interpreted the ADA narrowly and limited the scope of its protection. For example, it would amend the ADA to make it clear that:

  1. The ADA is intended to provide broad coverage to protect anyone who faces discrimination on the basis of a disability, and its definition of disability should be interpreted broadly.
  2. An impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working, does not need to limit another major life activity to be considered a disability.
  3. An episodic impairment or an impairment in remission is still a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when it is active.
  4. It is improper to take into consideration most measures that would reduce the impact of an impairment, such as medication, prosthetics, or other technology, when determining if an individual is disabled.
  5. The ADA protects employees from discrimination if their employers discriminate against them because they perceive the employee to have a disability, even if the individual is not actually disabled.
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