Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued proposed regulations implementing the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. The new rules demonstrate how broadly the EEOC intends to interpret the definition of protected disabled persons under the ADA. Without question, ADAAA sought to expand the class of persons covered under the ADA, and to cut down on preliminary litigation over the disability definition.
Throughout the proposed rules, the EEOC states that it will interpret the disability definition as broadly as the underlying law allows. When explaining the qualifications for disability, the EEOC repeatedly states that in most cases, the question of whether an aggrieved person is disabled should not require extensive analysis. The rules include an extensive number of examples of who is and who is not disabled. For the majority of the examples, the EEOC quickly concludes that the individual is disabled, even in situations where few facts beyond the medical diagnosis are provided.
For example, the EEOC lists a number of medical conditions that will be considered ADA-protected disabilities in all cases. Persons suffering from these conditions will automatically be considered to have a substantial impairment of a major life activity. This list includes cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, and bipolar disorder.
When faced with an ADA charge of discrimination or lawsuit, employers will have an increasingly difficult time prevailing through a defense that the plaintiff is not protected under the ADA. The EEOC's analysis will quickly shift to whether or not the plaintiff was discriminated against or denied a reasonable accommodation.