On September 25, 2008, the President signed into law the “ADA Amendments Act of 2008” (“ADAAA”). The ADAAA significantly amends the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) and will affect how employers analyze coverage and requests for reasonable accommodation under the ADA. The ADAAA becomes effective on January 1, 2009.

The drafters of the ADAAA found the Sutton v. United Airlines, 527 U.S. 471 (1999) and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky Inc. v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184 (2002) cases to have restrictively interpreted the ADA and employees’ rights against the intent of the ADA. It further found that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions’ (“EEOC”) regulations defining the terms “substantially limits” as “significantly restricted” under the ADA should be revised.

In Puerto Rico, the local legislature had a similar reaction to the cited Supreme Court and other lower court cases, and back in 2004 amended Act No. 44 of July 2, 1985 (“Act 44”), the local disability statute that closely resembles the ADA. This amendment to Act 44 directed the local law to be “liberally” construed (e.g. broad) in favor of the rights of the disabled, and disallowed the reliance on restrictive federal case law, regulations or interpretations under the ADA. Prior to the amendment, local courts had relied almost exclusively on federal case law interpreting the ADA when resolving claims under Act 44.

The ADAAA amends the rules of construction, but takes a step further than Act 44 by also amending the definition of disability. Given the new definitions and expansive nature of the term disability, it will be easier to qualify for protection under these acts.

In order to assure compliance and avoid the risk of claims in this emergent area of the law, employers have to closely analyze the need for accommodations under both the ADA and Act 44. Employers should proceed with caution in light of this expansive set of criteria.

To view or download our more detailed article on the ADAAA and its interplay with the requirements of Puerto Rico’s local disability statute, please follow this link https://www.npclawyers.com/Media.aspx to our News Release page.

Nolla, Palou & Casellas, LLC represents management in corporate, employment, labor, benefits law and related litigation. © 2008 Nolla, Palou & Casellas, LLC. All Rights Reserved.