EEOC Underestimates Impact of ADA Amendments Act

More people likely affected at greater cost to employers.

For manufacturers waiting for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to issue final regulations for implementing the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, the wait is over.

The EEOC in late March published the final regulations, which are now available in the Federal Register.

"Like the law they implement, the regulations are designed to simplify the determination of who has a 'disability' and make it easier for people to establish that they are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act," the EEOC said in a press statement.

The ADA Amendments Act went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009. It broadened the interpretation of the definition of "disability," the effect of which makes it "easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability within the meaning of the ADA," according to the EEOC.

The ADA Amendments Act also directed the EEOC to revise its regulations to conform to the changes in the act. The commission says its final regulations reflect feedback it received from more than 600 comments during the public comment period.

In its final regulations, the EEOC noted that its preliminary analysis had underestimated the number of workers who would be affected by the amendments act. The commission estimates that 12 million to 38.4 million people may be impacted by the act, an increase from its preliminary analysis of 8.2 million people.

The boost in the estimated number of people impacted also prompted the EEOC to increase the estimated costs associated with the increased need for accommodation. The estimate is a range of $60 million to $183 million.

"This is in addition to legal costs that the EEOC concedes will increase due to more ADA-related litigation proceeding to trial rather than being subject to dismissal due to now statutorily overruled court holdings that individuals did not qualify for coverage," says lawyer Jana Terry, an associate at law firm Greenberg Traurig.

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