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Journal of Law and Policy

First Page

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Abstract

The purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) was to restructure and clarify the definition of the legal term “disability” in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”). One of the three prongs of the ADA’s definition of disability is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.” The ADAAA was the result of a compromise reached after thirteen weeks of negotiations between representatives of the business and disabilities communities over its provisions. Like many other compromises, the ADAAA did not leave either side fully satisfied. Almost from its inception, the ADAAA has been a target for legal scholars on both sides of the partisan divide. Some commenters have argued that the law did not go far enough in protecting access to the courts for people with disabilities, and others have argued that the law went too far and would unleash a flood of frivolous litigation. Although the ADAAA has so far met any reasonable expectation for success from a policy standpoint, there are still issues regarding its implementation. This Article reviews selected employment litigation cases since the implementation of the ADAAA and determines whether courts have been able to apply the changes to the major life activity standard in an effective and reasonable manner. It also discusses the historical background of the ADAAA and the ongoing attempts to find or create new major life activities, the new bodily functions amendments to the major life activity standard, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) guidance that classifies some impairments as being “predictable assessments” for disabilities. This Article also provides an empirical study of ADA cases and the competing scholarly perspectives as to whether the ADAAA has gone too far, or not far enough, in terms of who should or should not be covered, and examines whether experience has proven or disproven the various claims made by scholars, and the unintended consequences of the law’s implementation.

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