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Discrimination Lawsuits Double as Definition of ‘Disability’ Expands

Washington Times (06/01/12) Luke Rosiak

Federal records indicate that the number of employment discrimination lawsuits under the Americans With Disabilities Act has nearly doubled in the past five years, and seen a sharp increase in recent months, as the definition of “disability” has expanded. The increase follows changes to the law in 2008, when Congress said that courts had interpreted the definition of “disability” more narrowly than it desired.

In the last fiscal year, disability-related complaints lodged with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also increased to their highest level, at 26,000, and payouts to complainants through that process nearly doubled from 2007 to $103 million. That does not include money paid out to those who took their complaints to court. The increase also comes as federal agencies have added more stringent requirements for disability accommodation and offered expanded interpretations of what it means to be disabled. “Employers are facing a barrage of frivolous cases, and each one costs $30-, $40-, $50,000,” says Mike Eastman, executive director of labor policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.