The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently issued the final Regulations interpreting the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”). The Regulations become effective on May 24, 2011. It has taken the EEOC over two (2) years from the effective date of the ADAAA (January 2009) to issue the regulations. The ADAAA and the Regulations are designed to change the focus of inquiries under the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) from whether an individual’s impairment meets the definition of a “substantial impairment” that constitutes a disability, to issues of discrimination, qualifications, the interactive process, and reasonable accommodation.
The Regulations also lower the bar for finding a “substantial limitation,” and the Regulations take the position that an impairment need not last a particular length of time to qualify under the ADAAA –an impairment lasting less than six months can be “substantially limiting.” Most ADA claims will now focus on whether the employee is qualified for the job, whether a reasonable accommodation was offered, whether the employer engaged in the interactive process to discuss possible accommodations in good faith, and whether any employer action was caused by an individual’s disability, record of disability, or being regarded as disabled.