Starting in January, employers must recognize a broader standard for defining who is disabled under the Americans With Disability Act and new regulations make several small but important revisions to the Family and Medical Leave Act, including an expansion to include family members taking care of covered military service members.
The changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act overturn a series of Supreme Court cases and expand the number of workers considered disabled as well as employers who must make reasonable accommodations, according the Small Business Administration in its newsletter “The Small Business Advocate.”
The ADA defines a disability in part as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity of an individual.” The new amendment says the statue should be broadly interpreted and directs the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to interpret the term “substantially limits” in its future rulemaking, the SBA said.
The amendment also provides examples for the previously undefined term “major life activity” to include “seeing, eating, sleeping and thinking.” The provision adds that major bodily functions such as prosthetics will not be considered in assessing whether a person has a disability with an exception for eyeglasses or contacts, the SBA wrote.
The amendment clarifies that if a condition is temporary or in remission, such as cancer, it can still be considered a disability and shifts the focus of litigation from whether an employee is disabled to whether there was discrimination in the workplace.
The changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993, take effect Jan. 16.
Under FMLA, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child or for a serious health condition or to take care of a family member with a serious health condition.
One new rule removes provisions that allowed employees to notify employers two full business days after their absence, the SBA wrote. Employers can now require workers to comply with existing call-in provisions for notification. Second, employers will now be allowed to ask for annual medical certification for conditions that last longer than a year and re-certifications under certain circumstances. Another new provision expands the FMLA to cover family members taking care of covered service members.
This article was submitted by Kathleen O’Connor, a contributing writer for Biz2Credit. Biz2Credit is a small business marketplace that provides entrepreneurs with the latest industry news and financial advice. Send all questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.