Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) discrimination claims are likely to be the No. 1 focus for employers in 2009, according to HR Focus magazine, a publication of the Institute of Management and Administration. The Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), which President Bush passed in September 2008, retains the ADA’s original definition of “disability,” but now requires broader interpretation of the term disability. For example, under the original ADA, someone who has weak vision would not be considered disabled if they were able to fix their condition by wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses. Today, that same person could possibly qualify as having a disability under the ADAAA, depending on circumstances. Also, the original ADA said a disability must impair one or more “major life activity”, but kept the definition vague. The new law has expanded the definition to include reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. Almost every job requires at least one of these activities, and could lead to claims from workers who say they cannot perform in certain environments, such as noisy atmospheres or open floor plans. What this means for employers is that their workers will, in the beginning, have a stronger case for discrimination to take to the courts – which could present a daunting legal issue for companies. Employment lawyers say the most prudent course for employers would be to grant reasonable accommodations if a worker requests one.
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