More Workers Covered Under the Amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act

In a recent published opinion the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania rule in favor of the Zeff Law Firm LLC and our client in holding that she can go forward with her disability discrimination claim in Mills v. Temple Univ., 869 F. Supp. 2d 609, 620 (E.D. Pa. 2012). Of particular importance in this case, the Court articulated what is considered a “disability” under the new Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Acts (“ADAAA”). For the full opinion click here Mills v. Temple University.

What are the ADAAA

The ADAAA are amendments that were passed in 2008 to the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). The ADA is the original legislation that, among other things, prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee because of the employee’s disability. For an employee to bring a lawsuit under the ADA one of the things an employee must show is that she was “disabled” under the law. One of the ways an employee can show that she is disabled is by showing that she has “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.”

As the Court pointed out in the Mills case, the ADAAA expanded the list of what is considered a major life activity. Major life activities now include “performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.”

What Does it Mean to be “Substantially Limited”?

The Court in Mills found that the Plaintiff was considered “substantially limited” in her ability to lift because she was restricted from lifting more than three pounds and was forced to make changes to her lifestyle because of those restrictions. Under the less restrictive ADAAA the inability to lift a significant amount of weight is considered an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. As the Court pointed out, other district courts have held that the inability to lift more than twenty pounds is considered a disability for the purposes of the ADAAA.

What This Means Going Forward

This opinion has particular significance to employees going forward. Millions of employees in the United States suffer from conditions that prevent them from lifting. This case establishes that those employees, who may not have been protected in the past, are now protected by the ADAAA.

- Drake P. Bearden, Jr., Esquire

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