As Congress prepares to consider legislation to clarify and strengthen protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), several disability and employer groups have joined to send a letter to members of Congress in support of a compromise bill. The measure, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, was drafted from a compromise agreement that could facilitate passage of the measure.
The original version was introduced in July 2007 and stalled in committees after employer and worker advocacy groups raised concerns about some of the legislation’s provisions.
One of the key concerns centered on the definition of a disability. The original legislation would have altered the definition that was established when the ADA was enacted in 1990. The compromise proposal retains the original requirements in the ADA that a disability must substantially limit a major life activity and that disabled individuals must demonstrate that they are qualified for the job.
The ADA legislation was introduced in Congress to create legislative fixes for several court rulings that have limited the scope of protections offered by the law. According to the letter sent by the employer and disability advocacy groups, the court decisions have caused problems for disabled workers and employers.
“Unfortunately, court decisions over the last decade have excluded individuals who should have been covered under the current ADA law,” the letter states. “These narrow court interpretations have restricted ADA coverage for people with diabetes, epilepsy, serious heart conditions, mental disabilities and even cancer.”
The groups that participated in helping to draft the compromise proposal and then sent the letter to Congress include the Society for Human Resource Management, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the American Diabetes Association, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Epilepsy Foundation, the HR Policy Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Disability Rights Network, the National Council on Independent Living and the U.S Chamber of Commerce.
“As representatives of a broad cross-section of both the employer and disability communities, we believe the proposal strikes an appropriate balance between the needs of individuals with disabilities and those of employers,” the letter reads.
The compromise legislation was set to be considered by the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Judiciary Committee on June 18, 2008.
According to sources familiar with the issue, the proposal could gain quick approval from the committees and move to the floor of the House for a vote on the proposal, possibly by the end of June.
Bill Leonard is senior writer for SHRM Online.