How the ADA evolvedPosted On: May. 1, 2018 12:00 AM CST
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which guarantees equal opportunity for disabled individuals in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications, was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in July 1990.
The ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush, made it easier for individuals seeking the ADA’s protection to establish they have a disability.
The legislation was proposed largely in response to U.S. Supreme Court rulings that advocates felt minimized the law’s effectiveness: Two 1999 rulings, Vaughn L. Murphy v. United Parcel Service Inc. and Karen L. Sutton and Kimberley Hinton v. United Airlines Inc., held that plaintiffs with disabilities that can be mitigated with corrective lenses or medication cannot sue for alleged discrimination under the ADA.
Then in January 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky Inc. v. Ella Willis that a worker’s inability to perform a certain job activity does not necessarily mean the worker is disabled and entitled to ADA protection.
The 2008 act states Sutton and its companion cases have eliminated protection “for many individuals whom Congress intended to protect,” while Toyota “further narrowed the broad scope of protection intended to be afforded by the ADA.”
The Amendments Act “changed dramatically the way employers are applying the act,” said Andrew S. Hament, a partner with FordHarrison L.L.P. in Melbourne, Florida. “Now, it’s much easier to be covered, and if somebody has any kind of serious medical condition, we just go ahead and assume they’re covered by the act for the purposes of accommodation.”
Dennis E. Westlind, an attorney with Bullard Law in Portland, Oregon, said that 10 years ago his advice to employers focused on trying to figure out if an employee was qualified as disabled under the ADA. Today, he said, his advice is to “just assume it does and figure out if you can accommodate it.”