The EEOC regulations implementing the ADA Amendments Act went into effect May 24, 2011. I wrote about the regs for the June issue of InsideCounsel magazine. As I discuss in more detail there, the most significant feature of the regs and the ADAAA is the greatly expanded definition of “disabled.” In the past, many ADA claims couldn’t get over the threshold question of whether the plaintiff had a disability under the law — and this includes plaintiffs with serious illnesses, such as cancer that is in remission. The amendments explicitly overturned the Supreme Court decisions in Sutton v. United Airlines (holding that if the effects of a person’s disability can be mitigated with medication or a device, then the person is not disabled) and Toyota v. Williams (holding that standard for whether an impairment is a disability is whether it prevents or restricts performance of tasks “that are of central importance to most people’s daily lives”).
The regs point out that many other ADA cases were wrongly decided, including the following. Just reading down the list shows why the amendments were needed. Courts had really taken the “substantially limited in a major life activity” standard to extremes that stretched common sense.
- U.S. v. Happy Time Day Care Center, 6 F.Supp.2d 1073 (W.D.Wisc., 1998) (questioning whether HIV is a disability.)
- Furnish v. SVI Systems Inc., 270 F.3d 445 (7th Cir., 2001) (finding that cirrhosis of the liver caused by Hepatitis B was not a disability because liver function “is not integral to one’s daily existence.”)
- Pimental v. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic, 236 F.Supp.2d 177 (N.D. N.H., 2002) (stage three breast cancer not a disability.)
- McClure v. General Motors Corp., 75 F. Appx 983 (5th Cir., 2003) (person with muscular dystrophy not disabled because he had successfully adapted how he performed manual tasks so he could work.)
- Orr v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 297 F.3d 720 (8th Cir., 2002) (diabetes controlled by a careful regimen of diet, exercise and medication not a disability.)
- McMullin v. Ashcroft, 337 F. Supp. 2d 1281 (D. Wyo., 2004) (individual fired because of clinical depression not protected because of the successful management of the condition with medication for fifteen years.)
- Eckhaus v. Consol. Rail Corp., 2003 WL 23205042 (D.N.J. Dec. 24, 2003) (hearing impairment not a disability because a hearing aid helped correct that impairment.)
- Todd v. Academy Corp., 57 F. Supp. 2d 448, 452 (S.D. Tex. 1999) (seizure disorder not a disability where medication reduced the frequency and intensity of seizures).
The full text of the regs is available here.