For over 15 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act has been the subject of lots of hand-wringing inside human resources departments across the country. Phrases such as "reasonable accommodation" and "undue hardship" took on new meanings. And of course, the Act spawned lots of litigation to determine the parameters of the act.
Now, a Senate Committee is looking into making tweaks to the ADA or, depending on your views, wholesale changes through a new bill making the rounds. The bill, entitled in Orwellian doublespeak as "Americans with Disabilities Act Restoration Act of 2007", would amend the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to add definitions and rules of construction permitting greater opportunities for recovery than exist under current judicial interpretations allow. The Committee heard testimony last week from several individuals.
The Workplace Horizons blog has a good summary of the exact changes and has been tracking this bill as it makes its way through Congress.
The Bill was introduced over the summer by Senator Tom Harkin who, in his internet saavy skills, posted this video to YouTube describing the bill.
Among those who testified was Dick Thornburgh, currently counsel to the national law firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis LLP, resident in their Washington, D.C. office. He is the former Attorney General of the United States and the former governor of Pennsylvania. He actually spoke on the subject many months ago at a visit to a university — which posted excerpts from his speech there.
So, where does this bill go from here? On a bus tour, naturally. Indeed, the bus visited Connecticut several weeks ago in an event attended by leaders of both political parties. But the bill still has a ways to go.
There are many blogs and posts tracking or commenting on this bill, including the American Association of People with Disabilities and Reunify Gally.
For employers, we often track court cases without realizing that legislation can have just as dramatic an impact. Will this bill a "hot topic" next year? It hasn’t taken off yet, but with the election cycle in full swing, it remains to be seen whether this bill will catch on.
(Note: Links have been updated per comments.)