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Last week I summarized the new ADA regulations issued by the EEOC;
therefore, I figured this week I would focus on some of the nuances of the
regulations that are worth keeping an eye on.
While it is clear the definition of disability is to be
construed broadly, the EEOC has also provided nine rules of construction to use
when determining whether an individual is substantially limited in performing a
major life activity:
(1) The term "substantially limits" shall be construed
broadly in favor of expansive coverage, to the maximum extent permitted by the
terms of the ADA. "Substantially limits" is not meant to be a demanding
(2) An impairment is a disability within the meaning of
this section if it substantially limits the ability of an individual to perform
a major life activity as compared to most people in the general population. An
impairment need not prevent, or significantly or severely restrict, the
individual from performing a major life activity in order to be considered
substantially limiting. Nonetheless, not every impairment will constitute a
disability within the meaning of this section.
(3) The primary object of attention in cases brought
under the ADA should be whether covered entities have complied with their
obligations and whether discrimination has occurred, not whether an
individual's impairment substantially limits a major life activity.
Accordingly, the threshold issue of whether an impairment "substantially
limits" a major life activity should not demand extensive analysis.
(4) The determination of whether an impairment
substantially limits a major life activity requires an individualized
assessment. However, in making this assessment, the term "substantially limits"
shall be interpreted and applied to require a degree of functional limitation
that is lower than the standard for "substantially limits" applied prior to the
(5) The comparison of an individual's performance of a
major life activity to the performance of the same major life activity by most
people in the general population usually will not require scientific, medical,
or statistical analysis. Nothing in this paragraph is intended, however, to
prohibit the presentation of scientific, medical, or statistical evidence to
make such a comparison where appropriate.
(6) The determination of whether an impairment
substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the
ameliorative effects of mitigating measures. However, the ameliorative effects
of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses shall be considered in determining
whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity.
(7) An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a
disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
(8) An impairment that substantially limits one major
life activity need not substantially limit other major life activities in order
to be considered a substantially limiting impairment.
The six-month ''transitory'' part of "transitory and minor" exception to
"regarded as" coverage does not apply to the definition of "disability" under
the first prong ("actual disability") or second prong ("record of" a
disability). The effects of an impairment lasting or expected to last fewer
than six months can be substantially limiting within the meaning of this
And for those keeping up with the differences between the
proposed and final regulations - the EEOC explained the differences
between the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("NPRM") issued in September 2009 and
the final regulations:
If you want to read more about the regulations, the EEOC
has a Question and Answer sheet available here.
Read more articles on employment law issues at Employment and the Law,
a blog by Ashley Kasarjian
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