US Supreme Court Signals that ADAAA Won’t Apply Retroactively
Posted at Arkansas Employment Law by M. McClure on 05/25/2009
The US Supreme Court recently delivered a Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) decision that won’t have relevance for most employers, but it may give guidance as to how the Court might rule on the issue of whether the ADAAA definition of disability should be applied retroactively.   

In AT&T v. Hulteen, the Court considered whether AT&T’s pre-PDA policy of denying women service credit for time spent away from work for the birth of a child violated the PDA. The Court looked, in part, to Landgraf v. USI Film Products to support its conclusion that Congress did not intend the PDA to apply retroactively and therefore, the denial of service credit for time away from work due to pregnancy was lawful.

Similarly, Eighth Circuit district courts have looked to Landgraf to deny the retroactive application of the ADAAA when considering the standard of disability.  Nyrop v. Independent School District No. 11 and Kirkeberg v. Canadian Pacific Railway.  Based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Hulteen, employers should feel confident that the Supreme Court would use the pre-ADAAA standard for disability for employment actions that occurred before January 1, 2009.   

The Bottom Line:  Review your disability accommodation process to make sure that your company is considering the new definition of disability under the ADAAA, which will cover many more employees than the ADA.  For employment actions after January 1, 2009, courts will be focusing primarily on whether the accommodation process was effective, rather than on whether the employee was disabled.