ADA Amendment Means Increased Burdens for Employers : Expected Increase in ADA-related Claims and Lawsuits Means Employers Need to Prepare Quickly

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Last Thursday, President George W. Bush signed into law a measure (S. 3406) that significantly amends the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). BLR® expects a significant increase in ADA-related claims and lawsuits will result and encourages employers to prepare quickly and in time for when the amendment becomes law – Jan 1, 2009.

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The bottom line is that more employees will fit within the definition of disabled under the ADA and unless employers are prepared they will significantly increase their risk of lawsuits.

"The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment (ADAA) provides broader protections for disabled workers and turns back the clock on Supreme Court rulings deemed too restrictive of disabled employees' rights," said Catherine L. Moreton, JD, Managing Editor for HR and Compensation at BLR. "The bottom line is that more employees will fit within the definition of disabled under the ADA and unless employers are prepared they will significantly increase their risk of lawsuits."

To help understand the ADA amendments and its impact, BLR has made a number of resources available:

ADA Amendment Information Center with links to tools and resources to help employers achieve compliance with the new ADA. Audio Conference: Tuesday, October 7th from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. (EST) — The ADA Amendments Act of 2008: Act's Passage Would Mean Increased Burdens for Employers: Why You Must Prepare Now Downloadable PDF: The New ADA: What You Need to Know Now Summary of ADA Impact on US Employers

More employees will be covered and in many cases, conditions will be covered for disabilities that are not readily apparent to employers. Policies and practices will have to be modified. Employees who would not have been protected will now be covered by the ADA and employers will need to document and engage in interactive discussions to determine what, if any, reasonable accommodations are necessary. Employers need to be prepared to engage in an interactive discussion with a greater number of employees. Training and documented procedures will be important. The potential for claims from employees who believe they were regarded as disabled will increase exponentially. It will be critical for employers to establish policies and procedures for supervisors in handling situations that might be related to a disability. Training will be critical! There is some good news for employers. "Regarded as disabled" does not include employees with a "minor" impairment, or a "transitory" impairment defined as lasting 6 months or less. In addition, an employee who says he or she is being regarded as disabled is not entitled to a reasonable accommodation. What U.S. Employers need to do now to prepare:

Revise policies related to the ADA, discrimination, and complaint procedures Establish procedures for responding to requests for reasonable accommodations and how to document the interactive process Revise medical certification forms Make sure job descriptions spell out essential job functions Train supervisors and managers on the new law and how to handle requests for accommodation Consider diversity training for all employees that includes disability Be prepared for detailed regulations in 2009 For media who would like to talk to ADAA subject-matter expert Catherine L. Moreton, JD, Managing Editor for HR and Compensation at BLR, please call (800) 727-5257 X2442 or email: Media@BLR.com

About Business & Legal Reports, Inc.

BLR® is the leading compliance information services company dedicated to helping all-sized organizations and industries—and their employees—reduce their compliance-related legal exposure. We do this by helping our customers understand, adhere to, and achieve best practices related to safety (OHSA), environmental (EPA), and employment (HR and Compensation) regulatory compliance. Our award-winning products and services include compliance information, news & analysis, training, best practice guidance, and turnkey tools delivered in myriad formats—from online applications, live events, and websites to books & booklets, newsletters, CDs/DVDs, and posters. For more information, please visit http://www.BLR.com or call 1-800-727-5257.

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Karin Staschke
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