Jacqueline A. Berrien, chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

U.S. Chamber Applauds EEOC's Revised ADA Regs

Published in the Federal Register on March 25, the regulations implement the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008. EEOC also changed the Interpretive Guidance, known as the Appendix.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded the new Americans with Disabilities Act regulations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, with Chamber Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits Randel K. Johnson issuing a statement March 24 saying EEOC "is to be commended for undertaking the hard work needed to reach bipartisan agreement that has been a hallmark of the Americans with Disabilities Act for the last two decades. We know firsthand that these issues can be exceedingly difficult. While we have only begun to review the final regulation, it is clear that the commission gave substantive consideration to our comments and those of other stakeholders."

EEOC is publishing the revised regulations in the Federal Register on March 25. Filling 202 pages, the regulations implement the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008. EEOC said it has also changed the Interpretive Guidance, known as the Appendix.

Johnson noted that the Amendments Act "reflect a carefully crafted compromise between the business community and the disability community that was passed by the House and the Senate without dissent." The law took effect Jan. 1, 2009, so it has taken more than two years for the regulations to be finalized. They apply to all private and state and local government employers with 15 or more employees, according to EEOC's helpful Q&A page about them. They define "disability" using a three-pronged approach:

  • a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or
  • a record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limited a major life activity, or
  • 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.

They 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 (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, immune, circulatory, hemic, lymphatic, skin and endocrine. They also cover any mental or psychological disorder, such as intellectual disability (formerly termed mental retardation), organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. The regulations contain a non-exhaustive list of "major life activities": caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working. And they state that major life activities include the operation of major bodily functions, including functions of the immune system, special sense organs and skin, normal cell growth, digestive, genitourinary, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, hemic, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, and reproductive functions.

The regulations state that major bodily functions include the operation of an individual organ within a body system, such as the kidney, liver, or pancreas, according to EEOC, which explains, "As a result of the ADAAA's recognition of major bodily functions as major life activities, it will be easier to find that individuals with certain types of impairments have a disability."

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