Redefining the Air Force's Interactive Process and Duty to Accommodate in Commuting Cases under the Rehabilitation Act after the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act Open Access
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The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) went into effect in 2009. Under the ADAAA, the definition of what constituted a disability was substantially broadened and therefore, disability discrimination protection was enlarged. The changes brought by the ADAAA apply to disability discrimination lawsuits under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The key issues in contention during a disability discrimination lawsuit have switched from whether a plaintiff is disabled under the law, to the interactive process under the employer's reasonable accommodation duty. The shift has encouraged employers to review and retool their reasonable accommodation procedures in order to be in compliance with the law and to provide a solid defense in any future lawsuit. This thesis reviews and critiques the United States Air Force Plan for Employment and Development of People with Disabilities and Reasonable Accommodation Procedures. In addition, it is recommended that the Air Force update its procedures and model them after the "committee centered" United States Postal Service (USPS) reasonable accommodation procedures. The advantages and disadvantages of applying the USPS model to the Air Force are explored in relationship to defending the Air Force in an employment discrimination lawsuit. Once an employer properly responds and shifts the way it defends disability discrimination lawsuits, an employer must then realize the new battleground of expanding an employer's duty to accommodate. The ADAAA reinstated a broad view of disability and the expanded coverage of protection under the law only enlarged an employer's duty to accommodate. A movement to further enlarge an employer's duty to accommodate to areas outside the workplace must be recognized by attorneys for the defendant employer. These areas include parking spaces, transportation reimbursement, shift changes, modified work schedules and work-at-home programs. Generally speaking, an employer's duty to accommodate should only be extended to areas and programs within the workplace where the employer has control. Even if the employer has control within the workplace, all workplace accommodations must still undergo an examination as to their reasonableness and the creation of an undue hardship before an employer has a duty to accommodate.
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