The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a wonderful law; unfortunately,
it has not proven to be easy for employees to win cases under the ADA.
A recent bill introduced in the Senate to amend the ADA, if passed, may
make it easier for disabled employees to prevail in disability cases.
Senate Bill 3406, entitled the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, would make it
easier for an employee to claim a covered disability in a number of ways.
It would expand the law’s current definition of “major life
activity” to include a “major bodily function” so that
if an individual has a serious medical condition that does not directly
affect a major life activity, the individual would still be covered by
the ADA. Additionally, the bill would make it easier to establish a “regarded
as” disability. Under the proposed law, an employee claiming a regarded
as disability would only need to show that he or she was regarded as having
an impairment-not that the impairment was perceived to be a substantially
limiting one. The proposed law would also prevent courts from taking into
consideration an individual’s use of medicines and other mitigating
measures in the determination of whether or not the individual is disabled.
The bill was sponsored by Senators Tom Harken (D-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch
(R-Utah). Although the bill was just introduced, and President Bush opposed
an earlier, similar piece of legislation that had sought to eliminate
the “major life activity” requirement completely from the
ADA, the bill has broad-based, bipartisan support and is being co-sponsored
by 63 other senators. We’ll keep you posted.