Good news: Disability rules aren’t retroactive


Here’s a reassuring message: New looser disability definitions don’t apply to cases brought before January 1 of his year.

Congress this year passed the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA)  in response to several Supreme Court decisions that narrowly interpreted the Americans with Disabilities Act rules. The ADAAA greatly broadened the standards for what counts as a disability — and also increased the odds of companies facing more and more accommodation requests.

Deluge averted

That possibility still exists, of course. But after a recent federal court ruling, at least you can be sure the new regs aren’t retroactive. That means employers won’t have to weather a deluge of cases from employees whose suits were dismissed under the old rules.

The recent decision came out of a case involving an employee of a sewer district who filed an ADA suit after his termination. The man claimed he should have been offered an accommodation because he was disabled; a lower court dismissed his suit.

In his appeal, the man claimed his case should be reconsidered using the new disability definitions.

The judge said no. If Congress had intended the law to be retroactive, it wouldn’t have specified a date — Jan. 1, 2009 — when the measure would become effective.

Cite: Lytes v. DC Water and Sewer, U.S. Circuit Crt. DC, No. 08-7002, 7/21/09.

0 thoughts on “Good news: Disability rules aren’t retroactive”

  1. So it is good news that old patterns of discrimination are allowed to stand? It was also wonderful that the courts, including the Supremes, misinterpreted the clear intent of Congress when the ADA was passed. The ADA is not about “those people”, it applies to anyone who is or who might become disabled, to assure that each of us is treated properly. Obviously a goal the Business Brief does not support. I would love to see your values statement.

  2. The headline, “Good news: Disability rules aren’t retroactive” suggests an extraordinary level of insensitivity to people with disabilities in the work place, and is, in fact, a dis-service to employers who want to not only comply with the law, but also want to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. With unemployment reaching near-depression level highs, I would think that employers are much more interested in hiring and retaining qualified skilled employees, even if reasonable accommodations are necessary. By the way, the ADAAA has not “greatly broadened the standards for what counts as a disability”, but has simply restored the original intent of Congress when the law was passed in 1990. As for employees requesting accommodations, most reasonable accommodations cost the employer less than $500.00. Check with the Job Accommodations Network ((JAN).

  3. Bill–where do you get the fiscal figure? From the Job Accommodations Network? I’ve been looking for something like that for a while. If you’ve got the website it would be a great help if you could post it.

    I work in a field where we are doing our best to support people in achieving goals (personal and job related) and when hiring people to work here we have people apply who have a disability and sometimes it’s able to be easily accomodated and sometimes not. It would be nice to have a guideline on what is “reasonable” as that varies from person to person on either side of the paycheck.

  4. To answer your question regarding the cost of accommodations, the JAN FAQ provides the following:

    #9: Where can I get funding for accommodations and how much do accommodations typically cost?

    Tax incentives are available to employers. In addition, funding is through several organizations. Read JAN’s Publication on Tax Incentives and visit JAN’s funding links for additional information. Throughout its history, JAN has collected cost and benefit data from its users. Data collected suggest that more than half of all accommodations cost less than $500. Further, JAN statistics show that most employers report financial benefits from providing accommodations due to a reduction in the cost of training new employees, a reduction in the cost of insurance, and an increase in worker productivity.

    You can get more information at the Job Accommodations Network web site:

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