More injured workers may qualify for reasonable accommodation
The broader definition will likely encompass more injured workers. That means many of their work-related injuries will be considered disabling, affording them protection under the ADA and entitling them to reasonable accommodations.
The ADAAA went into effect January 2009 to correct what supporters saw as limited interpretations of disability under Supreme Court decisions. The corresponding regulations from the EEOC were designed to simplify the determination of who has a disability and make it easier to establish ADA protection.
The regulations were published in the March 25 Federal Register and apply to all private and state and local government employers with 15 or more employees, as well as employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees.
The law uses a three-pronged approach to define a disability:
- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities -- the "actual" disability.
- A record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limited a major life activity -- the "record of" disability.
- When a covered entity takes an action prohibited by the ADA because of an actual or perceived impairment that is not both transitory and minor -- the "regarded as" disability.
Individuals must meet either the "actual" or "record of" definitions of disability to be eligible for a reasonable accommodation.
The revised regulations define "physical or mental impairment" as any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems, such as neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, immune, circulatory, hemic, lymphatic, skin, and endocrine.
Among the changes in the regulations is a principle that says an impairment need not prevent or severely or significantly restrict performance of a major life activity to be considered a disability. Also, "whether an impairment is a disability should be construed broadly, to the maximum extent allowed under the law," according to the EEOC.
Tips to comply. The EEOC suggests employers:
- Review the resources on the EEOC's website.
- Review any policies that may address disability or otherwise affect individuals with disabilities, such as leave policies and policies for providing reasonable accommodations, to ensure they comply with the ADAAA.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
March 31, 2011
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