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Earlier this fall, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008. The Act takes effect on January 1, 2009, but most attorneys – private sector and government sector alike – are unfamiliar with the strictures of the new law.

Most practitioners that are aware of the ADA Amendments Act are unsure of how the new law will affect disabled employees; generally, most of us are excited about the broadened protections that the ADA Amendments Act offers disabled employees.

The new ADA Amendments Act is an attempt by Congress to “fix” 18 years of Supreme and other Court rulings that whittled away at the rights of our disabled workers.Here is a brief summary of what the ADA Amendments Act does:

1) It directs the EEOC to revise the portion of its regulations defining the term “substantially limits”. The definition of a disabled worker has been widely accepted, generally, to be “…one who has a medical condition which ‘substantially limits’ a major life activity…” The phrase ‘substantially limits’ has been defined so narrowly that proving oneself to be disabled is often a major hurdle;

2) It expands the definition of “major life activities” by including two non-exhaustive lists. Until now, it was hard to prove that certain life activities were “major life activities” because they were not listed specifically in the statute or because Courts had previously not recognized the activity to be a major life activity. The new Act now includes activities the EEOC has recognized with activities that the EEOC has not specifically recognized (reading, bending, etc.). The new Act also includes major bodily functions as “major life activities” – functioning of the immune, digestive, neurological, respiratory, circulatory, and reproductive functions;

3) The ADA Amendments act clarifies that an impairment – that is episodic or in remission – is still a disability if, when active, it would substantially limit a major life activity. This will greatly benefit individuals suffering from conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, migraines, and other such conditions;

4) The Act clarifies that if your employer treats you as if you are disabled – regardless of whether or not there is a substantial limitation – that you will be considered in the “protected group” for claims of disparate treatment or disparate impact or hostile work environment (although you won’t, obviously, qualify for a reasonable accommodation);

5) Instructs courts and employers to interpret – very broadly – the definition of disability.

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 will greatly improve – hopefully – the protections for our disabled workforce. If you believe that you have been terminated because of your disability, please contact Pines Federal , to schedule a telephone consultation.

No post on this website is legal advice, is meant to be legal advice, and certainly does not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Information is power, and we are providing this information to give you, the employee, some power. This information is not widely or easily accessible to many employees.

It is best to consult with a lawyer familiar with disability discrimination claims to discuss the facts and law of your particular case. Pines Federal , represents Federal employees around the country and disabled workers in North Texas in their disability discrimination claims against their employers.

If you believe you were fired by your employer because of your disability, contact the Law Offices of Eric L. Pines, PLLC, to schedule a telephone consultation.

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Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative.

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