The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a NPRM proposing revisions to the existing Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations and interpretive guidance. The NPRM was published in the Federal Register on September 23, 2009. The proposed changes will bring the regulations and interpretive guidance into compliance with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which emphasizes that the definition of "disability" should be construed broadly in favor of coverage of individuals.
Notably, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 retains the current definition of "disability": (i) having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (ii) being able to finish a record of such an impairment; or (iii) being regarded as having such an impairment. However, the Act changes the manner in which the statutory terms should be interpreted to make it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability within the meaning of the statute.
Accordingly, among other changes, the proposed rule revises the existing regulations and guidance to expressly provide that "disability" should be interpreted broadly, expands the nonexhaustive lists of "major life activities" and provides that the term "substantially limits" should not require extensive analysis. In accordance with the expansive interpretation of what constitutes a disability under the ADA, employers may face an increase in the number of individuals considered to be disabled who may seek reasonable accommodations under the ADA.
Public comments on the NPRM were due by November 23, 2009.