Several months ago, I posted on legislation pending before Congress called the ADA Restoration Act of 2007. Today seems a particularly apt time for an update.
The U.S. House’s Committee on Education and Labor is holding a hearing today on H.R. 3195. The hearing is being webcast on its website here. Several witnesses are slated to testify.
Both SHRM and the American Association of People with Disabilities are portraying this time period as critical for consideration of the bill. A vote on the bill could come up to the house, according to these advocates, sometime in February. Whether the bill will pass appears up in the air as the bill lacks a sufficient number of co-sponsors to assure its passage in both houses.
George Lenard of the Employment Blawg shared his view on the Act as well. It’s worth checking out in full. Here’s a portion:
There have been some cases in which the definition of “disability” has been construed too narrowly, preventing individuals with quite substantial impairments from having their day in court.
But the definition as it now stands is a sound one, and the Supreme Court cases were correctly decided under this definition.
The problem has largely been one of bad lawyering. It has taken too long for lawyers representing plaintiffs in disability cases to learn that the threshold issue of meeting the definition of “disability” is absolutely critical, and requires extensive factual development, often with multiple expert witnesses.
SHRM’s position is excessively alarmist — although I agree the proposed law is unnecessary and I oppose it without qualification.
As I stated before, I’m not sure I agree with the use of the term "restoration". Indeed, it’s a dangerous road to go down by attempting look back to where we were 17 years ago in employment law and say the law isn’t what we intended it to be. The law — as with all laws — has evolved over time as "real-life" cases get interpreted. For example, does someone with MRSA qualify as a disability? Since MRSA wasn’t even an issue 15 years ago, the law has to be interpreted to address this question.
I would rather the backers of the bill engage in an intellectually honest debate of whether amendments to the ADA should be made rather than claim that they are merely "restoring" it. The use of that type of loaded terminology (see, for example, "No Child Left Behind") does not add to the debate of whether the proposed amendments are a good or bad idea.
Indeed, an interesting article by The New York Times last week also asked whether some disabled people might actually be worse off with the passage of the ADA.
Lastly, for those who are interested in more on the subject, the ReunifyGally Blog has been constant in its updates.