Labor & Employment

New ADA Regs Could Lead to More Disability Class Actions


Workers would get more expansive protections for disabilities under final regulations released Friday that interpret 2008 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One byproduct of the new regulations could be more ADA class actions, according to a Lexology article by Seyfarth Shaw attorneys Condon A. McGlothlen and Tracy M. Billows. The reason: The regulations include a list of impairments that will “virtually always” meet the definition of disability.

Conditions on the list include autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV infection, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.

In past cases, plaintiffs had trouble winning certification for ADA class actions because courts treated the claims as highly individualized. “Now, however, all who work for an employer and suffer from the same condition, e.g. cancer, can claim that they as a group have experienced discrimination,” the article says.

The regulations interpret 2008 amendments adopted to overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions giving a narrow interpretation to the ADA, according to The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. Businesses had criticized an earlier version of the regs, but now employers and disability advocates are both praising the final result.

The regulations also make it easier for individuals to establish they are covered by the ADA because they are regarded as having a disability, the BLT reports. Now the focus is on how the employer treats an individual, rather than what the employer believes about the impairment.

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