The May 2009 Cityscape (the magazine of the Iowa League of Cities) has an overview article covering the recent passage of the ADA Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) and what it will mean for most cities. As the co-author of the article, I would not recommend it for its readability or prose; however, it does highlight a number of the major changes for employers.
The Act specifically rejected prior Court decisions restricting the scope of who was protected by the ADA. These changes went into effect on January 1, 2009, with the primary change being far more people falling within the definition of disabled.
All employers need to update their interactive process policies and to offer accommodations to a wider percentage of the workforce. Based on the changes to the ADA:
- Expect more lawsuits to be filed. The ADAAA makes it easier for employees to make claims of disability discrimination and the defense of these suits will be more difficult as the more expansive construction of the meaning of disabled may limit prior defenses.
- Review all employment policies to make sure the language complies with the new law. Handbook changes should be communicated clearly to all employees.
- Make sure all managers and supervisors in the organization receive training regarding the changes to the ADA. These individuals must understand the implications of the changes in the definition of disability.
- Focus on the interactive process with disabled workers and discuss what reasonable accommodations will allow them to satisfactorily perform their essential job duties. Cities need to make sure their supervisors and department heads know of their obligation to provide reasonable accommodations and that they do not reject requests out of hand, without analysis.