January 2010

Oregon Updates Disability Statute to Mirror Federal Amendments

Effective January 1, 2009, federal disability amendments were passed to “restore the intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.” State Senate Bill 874, effective January 1, 2010, amends state law (ORS 659A.100 et seq) to reflect the federal amendments.

State and federal disability laws offer a host of employment protections to qualifying disabled persons –those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Traditionally, what constituted a major life activity was exceptionally narrow and included only those tasks “most central to most people’s lives.” (Toyota Motor Manufacturing v. Williams).

While the 2009 amendments did not alter the definition of major life activity, they mandate a substantially broader interpretation. Thus, a major life activity now includes, but is not limited to the following: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. It also includes operations of bodily function (digestive, circulatory, respiratory, etc.). Ameliorative or mitigating factors will no longer be considered in deciding if an individual has a disability.

In this regard, more employees will now fall under the protections of the state and federal disability laws. Because the disability laws require employers to provide reasonable disability accommodation to disabled employees who can perform the essential functions of his/her job with or without reasonable accommodation, employers should be engaging in the interactive process and providing more accommodations than in years past.

If you are interested in receiving training on the new disability amendments and how to engage in the interactive process mandated by state and federal disability law, please contact Rebecca Watkins or Jamie Carlton at 503-225-5858.

Please do not hesitate to contact SBH’s employment team with any questions you may have.