Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Celebrating the ADA, but bemoaning its breadth

As I noted last Friday, the ADA recently enjoyed its 20th anniversary. Last Monday, in The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn celebrated the ADA and its accomplishments for disabled Americans. And, I agree with him—in part. It’s hard to disagree with a law that has opened access to businesses and employers to those with legitimate disabilities. But (and it’s a big but), the ADA has also opened employers to abuses by many who have marginal medical issues, or medical issues that do not impact their day-to-day ability to perform their jobs. Under the current iteration of the ADA and its broad definition of disability, nearly everyone with a medical condition will be considered “disabled,” triggering an employer’s reasonable accommodation obligation. The ADA is rife with abuse. Even more problematic for employers is that the ADA is not only a prophylactic statute, but also in most instances a proactive statute, requiring employers to expend man-hours and money attempting to bend to the needs of employees via the reasonable accommodation interactive process.

So, as the ADA enters its third decade, I applaud all it has done for the truly disabled. I also feel the pain of every employer that has been compelled to hire someone like me to defend a specious claim of someone with a marginal medical issue.

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