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More employees defined as disabled under the law
It can be almost any condition
A disability is now interpreted as any impairment that "substantially limits a major life activity," according to the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008.
Since this legislation substantially expands the definition of "disability," more employees are now protected by the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA.)
"Under the ADAAA, almost any mental or physical condition can fall within the definition of 'disability,'" says Kathleen Liever, an employment law associate at Fowler White Boggs in Tampa, FL.
Consequently, more injured workers will assert a right under the ADA to a 'reasonable accommodation." "This is irrespective of any rights under workers' compensation or the Family Medical Leave Act," says Liever.
Liever adds, "Occupational health providers play a critical role in this area by providing medical recommendations, such as restrictions and accommodations. Employer and employee fear of re-injury can hamper these efforts."
Determine comfort level
On the other hand, many employers have reduced their workforces and you may be pressured to return injured employees to full duty as soon as possible. "Try to be proactive and stay in touch with employees about their comfort level with assignments," says Liever. "Many physicians and nurses do not have essential information about workplace policies, job demands, and the availability of light duty work."
Barbara Daugherty, RN, Ph, DATP, a senior health care specialist for PRO Physical Therapy's Industrial Services Division in Newark, DE, says, "In my position as an occupational health consultant, I have the opportunity to visit and discuss health concerns with many businesses, both small and large."
Daugherty says that the ADAAA has been a topic of discussion with some of the larger corporations. These companies have made process changes for individuals identified as potentially being covered.
"For the most part, cases are handled on a case by case basis," she says. "The cases I have been involved with since 2008 are being handled with a little more caution by human resources departments."
Daugherty predicts that conflicts will arise between the ADAAA and other regulations. "I think we will see increased issues with how this new regulation will impact other regulations," she says.
She gives the example of a truck driver with high blood pressure or sleep apnea, now potentially protected, who can't pass the Department of Transportation's driving examination. "Employers may find this an issue, as will those who need to administer the exam and certify the drivers as safe," she says.
For more information on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008, contact:
Barbara Daugherty, RN, PhD, ATP, PRO Physical Therapy, Newark, DE. Phone: (302) 388-6315. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathleen Liever, Employment Law Associate, Fowler White Boggs, Tampa, FL. Phone: (813) 222-2086. Fax: (813) 229-8313. E-mail: email@example.com