Changes in the U.S. Labor and Employment Laws and Policy in 2009

March 20, 2009 Advisory

Now that President Barack Obama has taken office with a strengthened Democratic majority in Congress, we can expect a number of changes in United States labor and employment laws and policy in 2009. This advisory highlights current changes and their consequences.
Already effective as of January 1, 2009, the ADA Amendment Act (ADAAA) promises to make it more difficult for employers to defend against disability-related discrmination cases. The Act emphasizes a broad definition of "disability," directing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to draft new regulations defining the key term "substantially limits" in a more expansive manner than have the federal courts. It also enlarges the list of "major life activities." The ADAAA is a reaction to a string of Supreme Court cases that, in the view of Congress, has unduly limited the ADA's scope since its enactment in 1990. For instance, one such Court decision, the ADAAA expressly provides that an assessment of an individual's disability is to be made without regard to corrective measures (e.g., medication) except eyeglasses and contact lenses.