Senate Introduces Bill to Expand Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a wonderful law; unfortunately, it has not proven to be easy for employees to win cases under the ADA. A recent bill introduced in the Senate to amend the ADA, if passed, may make it easier for disabled employees to prevail in disability cases.

Senate Bill 3406, entitled the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, would make it easier for an employee to claim a covered disability in a number of ways. It would expand the law’s current definition of “major life activity” to include a “major bodily function” so that if an individual has a serious medical condition that does not directly affect a major life activity, the individual would still be covered by the ADA. Additionally, the bill would make it easier to establish a “regarded as” disability. Under the proposed law, an employee claiming a regarded as disability would only need to show that he or she was regarded as having an impairment-not that the impairment was perceived to be a substantially limiting one. The proposed law would also prevent courts from taking into consideration an individual’s use of medicines and other mitigating measures in the determination of whether or not the individual is disabled.

The bill was sponsored by Senators Tom Harken (D-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Although the bill was just introduced, and President Bush opposed an earlier, similar piece of legislation that had sought to eliminate the “major life activity” requirement completely from the ADA, the bill has broad-based, bipartisan support and is being co-sponsored by 63 other senators. We’ll keep you posted.