Adjusting for the New ADA Amendments effective 1/1/09

Published January 2009

Last September, President Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Amendments Act of 2008 which expands the scope of disabilities covered under ADA. The Act becomes effective January 1, 2009.

Applying to employers with 15 or more employees, ADA prohibits discrimination in employment practices including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. It also applies to recruitment, advertising, tenure, layoff, leave, fringe benefits, and all other employment-related activities. Employment discrimination is prohibited against “qualified individuals with disabilities.”

Some highlights of the Act’s amendments include:

  • Providing that the term “disability” to have a broader coverage for individuals,
  • Prohibiting the consideration of “mitigating measures” (i.e. medication, mobility devices, assistive technology, etc.) to determine whether or not an individual has a disability, and
  • Clarifying that an impairment that substantially limits one major life activity does not need to limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability.


What does this all mean? Many employees who were not previously protected under ADA may soon be recognized to have a disability. Employers will likely see an increase in employee requests for accommodation which would need to be considered in light of the new amendments. In preparation and as protection, employers should revisit and update as needed their existing Employee Handbook policies and practices to reflect these new requirements in order to minimize potential lawsuit risks.