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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) just turned 30 years old. I’d like to talk about what this has meant for American workers and their employers, how it has influenced the workplace, and how the ADA has impacted and transformed the disability insurance industry.

The ADA actually has five separate titles to prevent and remedy discrimination against individuals with disabilities. These cover a variety of contexts, including employment (Title I), public services (Title II), places of public accommodation (Title III), telecommunications (Title IV), and the catch-all miscellaneous protections of Title V, which include prohibition of retaliation against someone who assists another in asserting their rights under the ADA. Most of our experience as a disability provider falls under the employment provisions of Title I.

The ADA as we know it today is a bit of a late bloomer with regard to employment-based claims. For the first 15 years, courts interpreted the Title I employment protections narrowly, and regularly dismissed employees’ ADA claims on the grounds that the medical condition at issue did not qualify as a disability. Congress changed that with the adoption of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), which had the primary purpose of setting the courts straight. The ADAAA made clear that the term disability should be interpreted very broadly, and since then the number of discrimination cases filed under the ADA each year has greatly increased.

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