LAW ALERT: EEOC Publishes New Regulations Governing Federal Disability Laws

Taking the next step to implement the federal Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) published its long-awaited final regulations on March 24, 2011. However, it is widely believed that the ADAAA and the recently published regulations will not greatly impact employers in California who are already covered by the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

The ADAAA overturned a number of decisions from the United States Supreme Court that had interpreted the definition of “disability” rather narrowly. By expanding that definition, the ADAAA has made it less difficult for employees to qualify for disability protection under federal law. The EEOC’s expressed aim in publishing these regulations is to make it easier to determine who qualifies for such protection under the new law.

For example, the ADAAA and the related regulations have relaxed certain provisions so that an employee is not required to prove that a given condition “significantly” or “severely” restricts his or her ability to perform a major life activity. Meanwhile, comparably low thresholds have existed under California law for a number of years. Still, employers in the Golden State are well advised to take heed of these developments – particularly those with multi-state operations and those who are more prone to be sued under federal law for various reasons.

A copy of the EEOC’s new regulations may be accessed at this link. The EEOC also posted a “Questions and Answers” document (at this link) and a “Fact Sheet” (at this link) to help employers understand the impact of the ADAAA and the related regulations. Attorneys at Weintraub Genshlea Chediak have reviewed these regulations and related materials carefully. They are prepared to provide guidance to employers who wish to give greater consideration to these developments.