The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced the filing of three new disability discrimination cases in a recent press release. These cases, which were filed under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”), allege discrimination against qualified individuals with diabetes, cancer, and severe arthritis.
You should recall that the ADA was amended by the ADAAA, effective January 1, 2009. The ADAAA clarified and expanded the definition of “disability,” making it easier for people with disabilities to qualify for protection under the ADA. We wrote a brief newsletter article in October 2008 detailing some of the changes, which you can download here.
The new cases are among the first filed by the EEOC under the ADAAA, but employers can rest assured they will not be the last. According to EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien, the EEOC wants to send a “clear message that the Commission will vigorously enforce the ADA.” The EEOC’s general counsel further cautions, “Individuals with disabilities — including serious medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and severe arthritis — must be evaluated according to their qualifications, and not their disabilities.”
Employers and HR professionals should take special care to ensure they fully understand the scope and breadth of the ADAAA. If you have any doubts or questions about the definition of diability, reasonable accommodations, or anything related to the ADAAA, the best time to act is NOW — do not wait until the EEOC comes knocking.