In 1990, the federal government passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is a state law that gives employment protection to qualified workers who have disabilities.
In the said Act, employers are forbidden to discriminate against a disabled applicant or current or former employee in all aspects of employment. Also, according to the Act, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation for disabled applicants and employees whenever possible.
Fast-forward to the later years of the last decade, the federal government made amendments to the original Act. The Americans with Disability Amendments Act (ADAAA) was passed in 2008. In this newly-amended Act, major changes were made while maintaining the essence of the original law. With the ADAAA, provisions made under the ADA were further strengthened for the benefit of employers and employees.
The following are some of the major provisions of the ADA and their subsequent comparisons with the ADAAA:
· Expansion of the “major life activities” component.
Ø ADA – A disabled person is someone who has an impairment that substantially limits him to do a major life activity. An example of a major life activity would include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
Ø ADAAA – Major life activities now include bodily functions as a major life activity, such as cell growth and proper body system functioning.
· Expansion of protections on those who are perceived as “disabled”.
Ø ADA – Employment protection is not only for those who have a disability, but also for those who have been perceived by employers as having a disability, as well as those who have a history of disability.
Ø ADAAA – The employee now needs to prove only that the employer regarded him or her as having a physical or mental impairment. The employer won’t be giving the employee reasonable accommodation if the latter makes only a claim of being “regarded as” disabled.
Employment rights must be exercised, especially by the employee. If the employer discriminates against an employee or applicant with a disability, the employer can be charged with violation of the ADAAA. The employee or applicant may retain the services of an employment lawyer so that he or she can be compensated.