For years, federal courts have had a field day chipping away at the Americans with Disabilities Act, reading it in an ever-narrower way and applying it to an ever-shrinking number of Americans. Finally, we have passed common-sense legislation which undoes all the damage the federal courts have done to the ADA over the years. Last September, Congress passed and President Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. Today, the EEOC published a red-lined version of the law on its website, so you can see the original law and the changes to it all on the same page.
If you take a look at the text of the law itself, you’ll see that the “Findings and Purpose” section of the new law specifically overturns two particularly bad U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc. and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams. The Sutton case had limited the ADA’s protection for employees whose disabilities could be “mitigated” by measures such as medication, treatment, or medical devices, and the Toyota case had tightened the standard for individuals to be considered “substantially limited” by their disability.
The new law states that the definition of “disability” is to be interpreted “in favor of broad coverage of individuals . . . to the maximum extent permitted . . . .” This was the original intent of the ADA, which, in my view, had become lost by federal judges (particularly Republican Supreme Court justices) bent on “de-regulating” disability discrimination law out of existence. The amendment act is a stern rebuke to these judges and a re-affirmation of our country’s important goal of eradicating discrimination in all its forms from the workplace.