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An Independent Federal Agency Finds the Americans with Disabilities Amendment an Early Success

The Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act (ADAAA) was passed in 2008 in an effort to more effectively enable disabled employees to seek legal protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Just last week, the National Council on Disability released its analysis of case law developed under the ADAAA.  The agency’s research was conducted in an attempt to discover if the Amendments had achieved its goal of broadening the definition of “disabled” under the ADA so as to ensure wider protection.  In three out of four district court cases analyzed by the agency, the plaintiff prevailed in establishing the existence of a disability under the ADAAA.  This is particularly good news since prior Congressional reports on the topic of the effectiveness of the Americans with Disabilities Act had warned of ongoing discrimination even after the passage of the original Act, hence the passage of the ADAAA.

The agency’s findings mean great news for those who have faced adverse employment action due to a physical or mental disability. The new language in the ADAAA allows for mitigating measures to be considered when the court decides whether an impairment is a disability under the law, instructs that the definition of disability favor a broad coverage of individuals (to the maximum extent allowed), more clearly defines “major life activities,” and provides legal protection to those with disabilities that they or others “perceive” to be substantial, even if the disability is minor.

It is hard enough to suffer from a life changing disability without also suffering discrimination at the hands of an employer as a result.  Employees in this unjust and discouraging situation can rest assured knowing that protection from disability discrimination claims under the ADA has grown more certain as a result of the ADAAA.  Although the ADAAA is still getting its sea legs in court, this news brings hope for the future.

Christopher Davis is an experienced employment litigator specializing in class actions, overtime wage recovery, discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and Wall Street bonus disputes. Before entering private practice, Mr. Davis served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office where he prosecuted violent crimes as a member of the Sex Crimes Unit.

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