Expanded Definition of “Disabled” Under ADA

February 9th, 2012 by JBWK

A federal court decision in the Western District of Texas highlights the impact of the expanded definition of “disability” after the ADA Amendments Act. The ADAAA statutorily expanded the definition of who is “disabled” after it became difficult for plaintiffs to show they were disabled, cutting their cases off before trial.

Congress instead wanted the focus to be on whether the employers met their obligations under the ADA, so the definition of “disabled” is now broad enough to allow almost any disability to survive summary judgment.

Highlighting this, the Texas federal judge denied an employer’s motion for summary judgment because the employee showed a jury may find her disabled under the ADAAA. She had pain lifting over 20 pounds and bending. The court held that, while these limitations would not have been a disability under the old ADA standards, they were enough to meet the expanded definition. The employee may now take her suit to trial.

Employers have to be very cautious as almost any limitation could be considered a disability under the new standard.


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