The Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act of 2008 (ADAAA) breathed new life into the ADA by dramatically expanding the definition of “disability.” As HR folks are no doubt aware, the emphasis has shifted to the question of reasonable accommodations and away from the question of whether an employee is disabled to begin with. The EEOC’s settlements between Congress deliberating the ADAAA and the end of 2012 reveal this trend clearly. Here are a couple of examples:
Settlements related to claims of disability discrimination based on anxiety disorders went from 1.6 million in 2007 to 6.4 million in 2012. Settlements related to claims of discrimination based on cardiovascular impairments went from 1.6 million in 20076 to 4.5 million in 2012. The list goes on and on, and the upward trend is obvious.
So what does this mean to you? Make sure you have a clear process in place for handling requests for reasonable accommodations. Add an accommodation policy to your handbook. Don’t let supervisors make these calls on an individual basis. Centralize the process, and TRAIN supervisors on spotting and responding to these issues.