EEOC Updates Definition of ADA Disability

 The EEOC recently backed down from wide ranging expansion of the definition of disability in the workplace.


The federal agency took the unusual action of eliminating portions of the ADAAA regulations that were most troubling to employers. On March 24, 2011, the EEOC adopted the final rule implementing the ADAAA or Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act. However, the EEOC stepped back from designating a list of conditions that are always disabilities under ADAAA.


Under the new regulations, the EEOC still requires an expansive definition of disability in the workplace. It cautions employers that most employees will not require extensive analysis to determine if they have a disability. However, instead of providing a list of presumed disabilities, the new ADAAA regulations link certain conditions to the individual’s limitation to a major life activity.


The definition is important, because under ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must grant reasonable accommodations to employees with a disability.


Some conditions that are still a disability if they limit a major life activity:


Drunk Employees Not Protected by ADA

A recent federal court decision upheld the fact that an employer can terminate an employee for being drunk at work, even when the employee is an alcoholic covered by ADA.


Alcoholism and drug addiction are often disabilities under ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. That law requires the employer to give workers time off for treatment. However, it does not require an employer to allow an employee be under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol at work. Nor does it permit an employee to drink alcohol or use drugs at work.


In a recent case before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Diane Ames worked for The Home Depot, a major home improvement retailer. After five years, Ames approached the employer and disclosed that she was an alcoholic. She requested aid from the Employee Assistance Program or EAP. Home Depot allowed Ames to take a month of paid leave for rehab.


Ames returned to work after signing an EAP agreement stating that she would not drink alcohol or be under the influence of alcohol at work. The agreement specified that the consequence for either behavior was Continue reading

ADAAA Expands FMLA for Adult Children

Just when employers thought they had FMLA figured out, ADAAA throws in a new wrinkle.


According to attorney Joan Gale and several other noted experts, the expansion of ADA under ADAAA will enable many more employees to take FMLA for adult children, even when those children are not members of the military or veterans.


An employee can take unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 12 weeks under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act when an immediate family member has a serious health condition. Originally, the FMLA was crafted so that immediate family members included parents, a spouse, and a son or daughter under the age of 18.


Sons and daughters over the age of 18 were Continue reading

New Disability Nondiscrimination Advisor Online

        A new online tool from the U.S. Department of Labor will help employers avoid discrimination against applicants and employees with disabilities.


        The Disability Nondiscrimination Law Advisor  helps employers navigate a complex web of interrelated laws and regulations including ADA, ADAAA, workers’ compensation laws, and other federal laws. It also enables federal contractors to search for regulations and statutes relevant to their situation.

        “We made it easier for employers of all sizes to access the talents of the 36 million Americans with disabilities,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathleen Martinez. “By providing this interactive and easy-to-use online tool, workers and employers can readily access and understand their rights and responsibilities under federal disability nondiscrimination laws.


        The online tool provides employers with up-to-date information on a variety of regulations and laws Continue reading

New ADA Guidelines for Fragrance Sensitivity

Employers need to be aware that allergies to fragrance or multiple chemical sensitivities can be disabilities under ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act.


This was amply illustrated in a recent post on McBride v. the City of Detroit that ruled senior city manager Susan McBride’s chemical sensitivity was a disability under ADA because it interfered with the major life activity of breathing.


One of the major problems in that case was that the HR department for the City of Detroit simply refused McBride’s request, without any Continue reading

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