Good day ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the ADA Amendments Act versus ADA Restoration Act conference call. At this time all participants are in a listen only mode. Later we will conduct a question and answer session and instructions on how to participate will be given at that time. If anyone requires operator assistance during the call, please press star and then zero on your telephone. As a reminder, today''s conference call is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference call over to your host, Miss Robin Jones. Please go ahead.
Great, thank you and good morning to everyone or near noon for those or at noon for those of you that are on the east coast. I welcome you to this very special session regarding the ADA Amendments Act and the ADA Restoration Act. This is a special session of the national ADA Audio Conference series, which is offered by the regional network of Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers, also known as ADA centers. There are ten of us across the country that we are funded by the National Institute of Disability Rehabilitation and Research also known as NIDRR. Thank you for joining us today. We have a very large audience with us today across many different places of the country and many sectors of the business and disability community. So we hope that this session is a value to all of you. We have people joining us today using various modes of communication. We have people on the telephone, we have individuals using streaming audio via the internet, and we have individuals also utilizing real-time captioning. So you can get the breadth and depth of just the complexity of everybodys participation today. We will be having three speakers, and I will be introducing them in a minute. Just to let you know that this session is being recorded, a transcript will be created from that recording, and both the recording and the transcript will be posted to our website, www.ada-audio.org within about ten business days following the program. So if you missed it or if you want to refer a colleague or someone to the program, they can always access it again through that Archives. And our Archives also contain all of the programs that we offer as part of this monthly, regular monthly session. So I am going to go ahead and get us started today. As I said earlier I am going to introduce all three speakers and then I am going to turn it over to the speakers to go ahead with their comments. We will take questions from the audience for each of the speakers and then provide some additional time for questions at the end as well from people as you think and you sensitize that, our operator will cue you when it is time or your time to be able to ask questions. So I am going to go ahead and start with my introductions today. First, I am going to introduce Andrew Imparato; he is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Association of People with Disabilities located in Washington, DC. He is the first full-time President and Chief Executive Officer of the AAPD, which is a national non-profit non-partisan membership organization for people with disabilities, their family members and supporters. It was originally founded in 1995. It pursued its mission of political and economic empowerment of people with disabilities through public policy advocacy and programs fostering leadership development, mentoring and career exploration including also voting, civic participation and a host of different member benefits. Since Andy has joined AAPD in 1999 the organization has more than quadrupled its membership and its annual budget as well as its staff size. It has more than 100,000 members at this time and it is the largest cross-disability membership organization in the U.S. Andy''s background and experiences prior to joining AAPD, he was the General Counsel and Director of Policy for the National Council on Disabilities, otherwise known as NCD, which is an independent federal agency that advises the President and Congress on public policy issues affecting people with disabilities. He has also worked as Special Assistant to Commissioner Paul Steven Miller at the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Disability Policy which was chaired by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. And was a Skadden fellow/staff attorney at the Disability Law Center in Boston, Massachusetts. So I think that just tells you that, from his background, the wealth and depth and breath of his experience in this area. Andy has been a speaker in our audio conference program in the past. So some of you may be familiar with him from that or from other work that you have done. We are also very pleased today to have joined us Michael Aitken. He is the Director of Governmental Affairs for the Society for Human Resource Management, otherwise often referred to as SHRM. He works out of their national office of Alexandria, Virginia. If you are not familiar with SHRM, it is the largest association devoted to human resource management. He is responsible for the associations development, managing, developing strategic focus of their governmental affairs. Prior to joining SHRM, Mike was with the College and University Professional Association for Human Resource, which represents the human resource professionals at close to 1,700, almost 1,800 higher education institutions, and was founder and associate at a public affairs firm in Washington, D.C. where he worked on state policy issues. He currently serves as a member of the UWC Board of Directors, U. S. Chamber of Commerce Labor Relations Committee, and the National Advisory Counsel for Corporate Voices for Working Families. He has a bachelor''s degree from the University of San Diego. We are happy to have Michael join us today and provide us with some insights and perspective from the business and human resource community related to this issue. Our third speaker/presenter is Christine Griffin who is a Commissioner with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She was originally sworn into office in January of 2006, she was nominated, appointed by President George W. Bush in July of 2005 and confirmed by the Senate in November of that same year. She has a five year term, which will expire on July 1, 2009. She is one of five members of the Commission and she participates with other commissioners on matters which come before it, including development and approval of enforcement policies, authorization of litigation, issuance of commissioners charges of discrimination and performance of other functions as may be authorized by the law or the regulations. Her work experience is in labor and employment law, including positions in both the public and private sector. Most recently she served as the Executive Director of the Disability Law Center in Boston from 96 to 2005. The Law Center is a legal advocacy organization addressing disability issues, promoting fundamental rights of people with disabilities. As the Executive Director she provided leadership to the Law Centers employees and conducted overall management and physical planning and such. Prior to that she also was an Attorney Advisor to the former Vice Chairman of the EEOC Paul Igasaki, advising him on legal matters and policy issues. Her other federal work experience includes serving in the U.S. Attorneys Office in Boston and the U. S. Food and Drug Administration as well as the U.S. Army. So I think that that just tells you a little bit about Christine. And there is more about all three of our speakers on our website under their bios that are posted online if you want to read more about them. But I want at this point to go ahead and turn it over to them, because thats who you came to listen to today. So I am going to go ahead and start by turning it over to Andy and as I said following Andy will be Mike and then following Mike will be Christine. So, Andy, go ahead, I am turning the table over to you.
Thank you. And I want to apologize. I am in Los Angeles today on a cell phone and I am going to do my best to not get cut off but I don''t feel good about that. I also got confused about the starting time for the call. So, at any rate, Robin can you hear me okay?
Yes, I think you are fine Andy. Yeah, you are fine.
Thanks. So just to let people know what we were going to do is I am going to start out by just describing kind of where we are in the ADA Amendments Act process formerly known as the ADA Restoration Act and how we got there. And then I am going to turn it over to Mike Aitken who I have been working closely with from the Society for Human Resource Management. He is going to talk about kind of what his organization and the coalition that they are working with on the employer''s side are doing in support of the legislation and why they are supporting the legislation. And then we are going to turn it over to Commissioner Christine Griffin who is just going to talk from her perspective as one Commissioner about the impact that the Senate Bill would likely have on the EEOC''s ability to enforce the law, and some of the things that are likely to emerge to the extent if the Bill does pass in this Congress in terms of implementation. So, going to my part of the agenda, you know, I think the last time I did a call with your group, Robin, it was after the Bill was introduced, but it was before we began the process of sitting down with the business community and trying to negotiate something that both the disability coalition and the employer community could support. That process started in earnest in February, and the groups that were kind of at the negotiating table on the business side were the Society for Human Resource Management, represented on this call by Mike Aitken who is the senior-most person from SHRM that was involved in the negotiations, along with his colleague Mike Lehman. We also had a lot of Mikes on the business community side. We had Mike Eastman who is with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and his colleague Randy Johnson. We had Mike Peterson from the HR Policy Association. We also had Jerry Gillespie from the National Association of Manufacturers. On our side, we had the disability organizations were AAPD, the National Council on Independent Living, the National Disability Rights Network, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Epilepsy Foundation, and Chai Feldblum and her team representing the Georgetown Federal Legislation Clinic. So as you can imagine we had a lot of players. It was not easy to kind of figure out where we might have consensus. The meetings started in February and they continued in earnest through June. And we had kind of a breakthrough at one point where we thought, well, let me just say I mean the big issues is that, the legislation that was introduced last July of 2007, the big issues that it addressed were issues that flowed from a number of Supreme Court decisions that had narrowed the scope of the definition of disability under the ADA. And that includes the Sutton trilogy and the Toyota versus Williams case. The Bill that was introduced fixed the problems that were created by those decisions by changing the statutory definition from a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity to simply a physical or mental impairment. That was kind of a non-starter for the employment community. So when we sat down in the negotiations, we were able to get some quick consensus, I am sorry, there is a phone ringing here in the background. But we were able to get some quick consensus on you know basically the issue of mitigating measures, the employment community felt comfortable that the Sutton trilogy decision to stop the, to basically not consider mitigating measures when you look at whether or not somebody or actually to take into account mitigating measures when you are looking at whether or not somebody is substantially limited in a major life activity was you know wrongly decided and so that we felt good about that. And there were a lot of people who felt well if we can just fix mitigating measures that that would be valuable in it of itself. But we thought it was important on the disability side to also deal with the Toyota versus Williams case which is the case where the court said that substantial limitation in a major life activity means prevents or severely restricted from performing an activity that is of central importance to most people''s daily lives. And you know even if we fixed mitigating measures, the fallout of that Toyota decision was such that we were concerned that we wouldn''t really have fixed all of the problems that we were having with the definition of disability. And I think the negotiators on the employer side understood that and that is really where we focused our efforts in the negotiations. How can we address Toyota without creating new problems for employers along the lines of the Bill that was introduced originally as the ADA Restoration Act? And where we ended up on that issue, we basically decided that it was important to the employer community to have the language substantially limit the major life activity because they were [Indiscernible] language and they felt like the ADA was a well understood thing and the employment community [Indiscernible] big change on that first prong. Can you guys still hear me? Cause my phone is doing funny beeps and I am worried that maybe I got cut off.
Andy, I can hear you.
Ok, great. They were worried that you know, if you change that first prong, it is going to create problems for employers with uncertainty. So what we decided was, we looked at what we could do if we left the language substantially limit a major life activity but make it clear that the Toyota interpretation of that language and that the EEOC regulations interpreting that language that predated Toyota were too restrictive. So that is where we realized that we could come to consensus. Our original plan was to come up with a per se list of disabilities that would be considered substantially limiting of major life activities. We got a lot of push back on that because you had people who were on the list and people who were not on the list and in civil rights law, that is not an ideal place to be. One of the most important principles of the ADA is that it is an individualized assessment and that it is not about diagnosis. So as much as we were attracted to that legally, because it would give people who were on the list you know the ability to get to the issue of whether they were discriminated against without having to jump through a lot of hoops about how impaired they were, politically it was a non-starter. So then we came back and we came up with a new term to define substantially limits and that term was materially restrained. So if somebody who is substantially limited in a major life activity is defined in the House Bill that passed the House on June 25th as somebody who is materially restricted in a major life activity and we did not define that term materially restricted in the House Bill but we did come up with a long list, illustrative list of major life activities and major bodily functions that would come under that term major life activity and that was our effort to bring back a lot of the groups that had been on the per se list, we simply listed the major life activities and the major bodily functions that would be most likely to be impacted for them and it was an illustrative list, not an exhaustive list. So we were comfortable that we werent creating political problems for ourselves by leaving certain life activities or bodily functions off the list. So that was the compromise in the House. There is other stuff in the House Bill that is good from our perspective that includes for people with episodic conditions. It says that you look at how they are functioning when their condition is manifesting for purposes of determining coverage under the law. There is a broad construction provision that says that the definition is to be interpreted broadly. And you know, there is findings and purposes in the Bill that make it clear what Congress''s intent was in passing the ADA Amendments Act. It passed the House 402 to17. We came over to the Senate, and then right before the recess, so this was like the week leading up to the August recess, Senator Harkin and Senator Hatch worked together to come up with a bipartisan compromise in the Senate. And I am happy to say it has 67 original cosponsors. 67 cosponsors before they left for the recess and now we are working on adding to that. But that is a lot of cosponsors. It is very bipartisan, and it is very similar to the House Bill. The big change from the House Bill which was driven largely by Senator Hatch is Senator Hatch did not want to include a new term in this bill that had no definition. So we thought that if we could come up with a definition of materially restricts, that that would work for Senator Hatch. He made it clear to us that he just did not want to include a new term. Instead he wanted to stick with substantially limits a major life activity but send a clear message to the courts that that term was interpreted too narrowly in the Toyota versus Williams case. So there is language in the bill that was introduced in the Senate by Senator Harkin and Senator Hatch and the other cosponsors, including Senator Enzi and Senator Kennedy who again are two key people who are going to need to support it, that says that it has all the good language from the House Bill in terms of mitigating measures dealing with episodic conditions. It has a good broad construction provision but it does say that, it doesn''t use this new term materially restrict. It does continue to have the illustrative list of major life activities and major bodily functions, and we are very happy about that, that was a big win for us. So that is just interpreting the original phrase substantially limits and major life activity. And then in the findings and purposes section, it says that the Toyota versus Williams case was wrongly decided and then in the body of the Bill it says that that term substantially limits and major life activity needs to be interpreted consistently with the findings and purposes. So that was kind of our nuanced way to say that the bar needs to be lowered in Toyota versus Williams. We also made clear in the findings and purposes that the bar needs to be lower than where the EEOC set it in advance of Toyota versus Williams. But we don''t say in the statute where the bar needs to be. Senator Hatch''s staff had proposed with Senator Harkin''s staff having the bar be somewhere above a moderate impairment, like, more than moderate. But what we really had a big problem with that because we were concerned if somebody has you know mild mental retardation or mild intellectual disability, is that going to be considered less than moderate? And we just thought that getting into more than moderate in a civil rights law could be dangerous. So we decided that we better not to have a floor but to just make clear that the hurdle that people have to cross was set too high in Toyota and that it needs to be lower than that. So that is kind of where we are. We are going into the recess lining up bipartisan Senate support. We are working on a manager statement that can be used on the Senate floor. Our goal is to bring the Senate Bill to the Senate floor in the first week when they come back in September to have it pass with broad bipartisan support like it did in the House. Bring that Bill back to the House, have it pass the House and have that be the Bill that is signed by the President. And we are reaching out to the White House. We do not have a reaction from the White House yet on the Senate Bill unless Mike Aitken knows something that I don''t know. But we are optimistic that the President will sign it. It was clear to us from the last meeting with the White House on the House side that they want to do something on this issue. They have some concerns with the House Bill, one of which was having a new term materially restrict that is not defined. So our hope is that some of the changes that Senator Hatch insisted on will also make it better from the White House''s perspective. The one other change in the Senate Bill was for the higher education community. They wanted basically to restate in the Bill what current law says which is that nothing in the definition and nothing in the ADA prevents institutions of higher education from having academic standards that are legitimate. So we kind of restated that in the Senate Bill and we are not exactly clear why it is important to do that, but it was clear that the higher ed community felt strongly about it and I think that Senator Hatch felt that if we didn''t address that issue we were just going to bring new problems that just might prevent the Bill from passing. So I think that is where I am going to end it. I know we are going to have plenty of time for questions so why dont I just turn it over to Mike Aitken to just chime in from the employer perspective.
Thanks, Andy. I will take you off the speakerphone, my phone just died. Well, I want to thank you all for inviting me to the program today and for sharing the employer communitys perspective on this. I will tell you SHRM and the other organizations that worked on this are absolutely committed to removing the barriers in employment with people with disabilities and we are very pleased to be able to come together on what we think both the House Bill and the Senate Bill is a really strong thoughtful responsible balanced approach to the issues that Andy mentioned. Many of us in the employer community realized that the courts had gone too far on, in some these court cases as Andy mentioned and had limited the ability of individuals to have access to employment and some of the other challenges that were mentioned with regards to definitions of disability and the like. When you look at this Bill as opposed to the legislation that was originally introduced in the House, the ADA Restoration Act in which the employer community thought was overly broad in terms of the definitions of who might be covered under the Act and not concerned about some of the issues in regard to cancer or epilepsy or mild retardation as Andy mentioned but having a very temporary, non-serious conditions such as colds and sickness and the like, potentially being construed by the courts and the like is being covered under the Act. And that was one of the major concerns that the employer community expressed very early on with regard to the Restoration Act. And the second biggest problem or challenge with the Restoration Act was the shifting of the burden of proof under the prong one of the Act in regards to whether or not an individual qualified for the position from the employee to the employer. Those changes were addressed in regard to the House ADA Amendments Act and as Andy mentioned the Senate''s ADA Amendment Act. And I do think, as Andy noted, that many of the issues that were brought up by the White House and some of the other stakeholders in both the House and Senate where there may have been concerns with the House-passed Bill have been thoughtfully addressed. They may not all have been addressed, but there has been a good faith attempt to address those issues. As Andy noted the Bill was introduced in the Senate right before the Senate went home with 67 cosponsors from a coalitions perspective, as of last count, saw about 78 or so House and Senate meetings that have been made by both employer and disability groups that have been supporting the deal, trying to build up the momentum and support for this bipartisan compromise supported by both the employer and disability community. I know that SHRM has activated a grass roots alert in support of the House Bill. We have put in, I dont know, a little over 6,500 letters into the House in support of the measure and we are going to be doing the same thing as Andy mentioned toward the end of August before Congress gets back, targeting action early in the Senate for support of that Bill as well. What you may be interested in knowing, particularly for those of you that are in the local communities, is that there is an attempt right now being set up to encourage both the employer and disability community during August to try to meet with some of their elected federal both House and Senate officials and town hall meetings and the like and to talk to them about how important this legislation is both to the employer and the disability community. Mentioning again this kind of unique support of the groups coming together to address some of the concerns and issues and real problems that have been raised by some of the previous court decisions that Andy discussed previously. But to explain, that this is again, particularly the Senate legislation backed by Senator Hatch and Senator Harkin on a bipartisan basis with a huge overwhelming amount of support. And just to point that out for those of you who aren''t in Washington like Andy, Commissioner Griffin and I are, it is quite unusual, particularly this late in a Congressional term and this close to a Presidential election, that you see that number of U.S. Senators on one particular piece of Bill, particular Bill, particularly one that is a major new civil rights legislation. And I think it is a direct effect on the leadership that Mr. Hatch and Mr. Harkin have but also the good sound bipartisanship and sound public policy that has been advanced in the legislation. Just to mention going forward I know that the employer community is going to continue to work the Bill and work with the Chamber, NAM, HR Policy Association SHRM, worked very closely with our colleagues in the disability community, through continued meetings, press conferences potentially op-eds on behalf of both entities and the multiple organizations in there. We are going to continue to make the visits in the Senate and as I noted a grass roots presence is going to be drummed up to push the Bill forward. But again, we from the employer community perspective, we think the legislation strikes a great balance trying to address the challenges have been presented and issues have been raised and in fact the opportunities denied by some of the court decisions of the past. But also realizing we have to have legislation that is workable, that employers understand what their obligations are and responsibilities are under the ADA in order to make sure everybody has an opportunity for employment. With that, and I know there is going to be some questions I am sure from the listening audience, I wanted to make sure that Christine has her time, sorry, Commissioner Griffin has her time to address the audience. So I am going to hand the torch to her.
Alright, thank you. And in the spirit of the Olympic games, I will accept that torch. I want to thank you all actually for inviting me to participate as well. I do need to say right up front to everybody that I am not speaking for the Commission. This is, we actually do not have a piece of legislation yet and so I need to make that clear, that currently, because there isn''t an actual Bill that we are reacting to, there really isn''t any activity happening here at the Commission right now with regard to you know thinking about what the regulations would look like or anything like that. I think as soon as a law is actually passed and signed we will be able to get to work on that. We are currently, our Office of Legal Counsel right now is currently writing the regs for the Genetic Information Discrimination Act and people should look out for that as well as another important piece of the disability puzzle in employment, and for those of you that dont know about that, that law will prohibit employers from using genetic information that they may find out about you for a variety of ways in any type of employment decision. So, I would tell you to look for those regs and the notice of proposed rule making that will be coming out soon. But if there were a Bill that was passed, and as I look at what the Senate version says, I would imagine that the EEOC would get very busy, very quickly writing, most likely writing regulations and published in a notice of proposed rule making, which would have a notice and comment period, which we would encourage everybody to involve yourself in. I checked with Peggy Mastroianni before the call-in and she was telling me that when the ADA was passed and those regs were written and put out for notice and public comment, we did make quite a few changes based on those comments. It is critical that people tell us what they like and what they don''t like and what they think you know proposed solutions might be when you actually see regs. But one of the things that if we were to write regulations for the ADA Amendment Act, we would be looking very carefully at congressional intent and history. And I think it is very interesting when you read what is written in the Bill, the Senate Bill anyway, they say some very specific things to the EEOC. For example, you know Congress finds that the current Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ADA regulations defining the term substantially limits as significantly restricted are inconsistent with congressional intent by expressing too high a standard. And if that language which remained in the Bill that was passed and signed, we would pay very close attention to statements like that. We would also be looking at the specific language in the legislative history about you know the Supreme Court decisions that narrowed the definition of disability and you know Toyota in particular, you know saying that an impairment would have to prevent a severely restricted an individual from doing activities that are of central importance to most people''s daily lives, the language that says Congress is rejecting those standards that were annunciated in the Supreme Court decisions will be very important to our folks in our Office of Legal Counsel as they begin this process of writing regulations for a new law. There is also a statement that says that the entities that are covered under the ADA would have to convey that the question of whether an individual''s impairment is a disability under the ADA should not demand extensive analysis. And I think that is another important distinction that we would have to pay strict attention to if we were writing regulations. And I think another important aspect that people haven''t really talked about a lot is the new language around major bodily functions. So it says, a major life activity would also include the operation of a major bodily function including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions. That language is very, very important and we have seen numbers of cases where you know we are arguing over whether someone you know with Crohns disease actually has a disability. The mitigating measures piece is astounding. That I have said for a long time if that alone were fixed by a future piece of legislation, that would be a huge victory. And we would see here at the EEOC the ability to actually start providing people with disabilities with access to the enforcement that they need. And we will begin talking about the discrimination occurred and not spending as much time talking about whether they actually have a disability or not. I can''t tell you how many people that we have tried to shoehorn in under the third prong of the definition who have disabilities like diabetes, epilepsy, clearly disabilities that Congress intended to be considered disabilities and covered by the ADA when they passed it. So restoring all of that will allow us to help many, many more people in this country. What I have learned over you know the last I dont know 15-16 years of doing this work is that, where the ADA was the most successful was really helping people that were, for the most part already employed, who acquired a disability while they were employed or their accommodation needs changed, things like that. And this law was very, very successful initially in helping those folks stay employed and to get the accommodations they needed to do the job. And what we saw over time was this erosion by the Supreme Court in who was actually covered under this law. And so I think people here are pretty excited about the prospect of really now getting to the work of discrimination and not spending all of our time trying to figure out whether someone is covered under a prong, and whether we can fit them in where frankly they didn''t belong. They were people with disabilities they weren''t people who were regarded as. So I can just say that we are very excited about the future here and again, the process would most likely be that we would issue a notice of proposed rule making which will have a notice and comment period. And again, I would encourage all of you to participate and to look for that. And also, once that work would be complete, we would be issuing guidance to our own investigators throughout the country to make sure that they were in full you know understanding of how the law had changed and so that what they see and talk to charging parties, they are actually making sure that the folks that can file a claim and a charge are able to do that. And then I think the third prong of the process, what I hope would be that we would dedicate some resources to doing training. And not only training for our folks but training for people with disabilities so that they have a full appreciation of what their rights are. Because as we know, in civil rights, the people that are covered by the civil rights are the enforcers. We may help you do that but it is really you recognizing when a right has been violated and you seeking help from an agency like the EEOC, it all begins with a person knowing what their rights are. So I would hope that we would be able to do that as well as I think you know partnering with SHRM and some other organizations, educating the business community about what has changed and hoping that we really do such a good job that we aren''t seeing any of the cases that we have seen in the past where there is an argument over whether someone with diabetes or epilepsy is actually a person with a disability. So again, I personally am very excited about this. I can''t say enough about what a tremendous job Andy and Mike and the other folks involved in the process have been. SHRM, I want to commend SHRM for really rising to the occasion here. I think some of us in the early stages were worried about some of the business organizations and whether they would recognize the problems that existed and the fact that SHRM, the Chamber of Commerce, many other business related organizations came together with the disability community to work on this and to negotiate this is tremendous and unprecedented in a lot of ways. So I am really hopeful about what we will see as the final Bill and the work we will be able to do here at the EEOC.
Chris, this is Andy. Can I just mention two things that I forgot to mention?
No. Yes, you can.
One is the Senate Bill number. I don''t remember saying it and I am not sure that Mike said it. The Senate Bill number, and this is again the new Bill that was reintroduced by Harkin and Hatch, it is called the ADA Amendments Act and it is S3406. Again, S as in Sam, 3-4-0-6. And the other thing that I neglected to mention is one of the positive features of the House Bill which is also the Senate Bill is a broad construction of the regarded as prong of the definition, so in order to come in under that prong you simply have to be regarded or perceived as having a physical or mental impairment and experienced an adverse action based on that impairment. You don''t have to show that you were perceived or regarded as having an impairment that substantially limited a major life activity. In order to get that broad construction of the regarded as prong, we had to say for the first time in the statute that if you only come in under the regarded as prong, you are not entitled to reasonable accommodation. So that was a trade off that we made in the House side that carried through to the Senate side. And I think that is going to help a lot of people who don''t need accommodations but who experience discrimination based on fears, myths and stereotypes. It will enable them to get to the issue of whether they were discriminated against. And a lot of them are getting knocked out on a narrow interpretation of the regarded as prong. So I just wanted to add that.
Right, you know that is really important Andy because that is I think how it was originally supposed to work. And we found ourselves in this weird catch-22 because we were trying to, as I said shoehorn people with disabilities into that third prong to get them covered. There were people that were seeking accommodations and just, the whole catch-22, it didn''t make sense. So, getting rid of the mitigating measures piece will allow us to get people covered the way they should be covered and then the third prong of regarded as can actually work the way it was intended to work. The people really were discriminated against based on some you know misconception of the employer and it really had nothing to do, you know they weren''t seeking an accommodation. So, I think that is important for people to know.
Okay, so thank you very much all three of you. And I think we are ready to take some questions from the audience at this point. I think you have given us a lot of background, a lot of information on the particular issues and such that has been grappled with and gone around on the pieces of legislation. So, Operator, why don''t we give some instructions to people on how to ask questions and we will take it from there.
Absolutely. Ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to queue up to ask a question, please press the one button on your touch tone key pad. If your question has been asked by another person or you wish to remove yourself from the queue for any reason, you may do so by pressing the pound button. Again, if you would like to ask a question, press the one button at this time.
Just a second, before you do that, I have a question that came in electronically, so I will go ahead while we are getting questions into the queue here. This is a question for you Christine. This is related to, a question someone saying is the proposed definition of disability consistent with any precedents that the EEOC has had in the past? And I think you have already addressed the second part: What are you doing to prepare for the change in legislation? Which you have indicated was that you had some rule making and some other issues that were going on. The question would be, how you [Inaudible] workload, if at all?
I am sorry. Could you repeat that part again?
Yeah, one would be, is there any precedence with the proposed definition?
I would say no, because we don''t know what the definition is yet so.
Okay, and then the second was, with the change in the definition how would you perceive that it would impact the EEOC workload?
Well you know, I think we have been trying to predict that you know just sort of anecdotally you know a few of us have been trying. But I would look to California and figure out what was going on there. They changed their law along the lines, especially with regard to mitigation measures some time ago. And I think you know, when I look under their state law they have not seen a huge influx of people who are covered. As I said earlier I think a lot of people that come to us, we took the charge and we tried to figure out where they fit in a different part of the definition of the ADA and so now we will be able to put those people under the prong that they should have been under all along. So it is hard to predict and again you know it is a matter of people knowing their rights. Over the years people with disabilities I think have gotten the message loud and clear and certainly plaintiff''s attorneys haven''t been taking these cases because they were impossible to win. So, as people with disabilities become more aware of new you know rights or renewed rights I guess under this law, they may find that they may begin to understand that they have been discriminated against and they will come to us as well. So, it is just my long winded version of saying, we don''t know.
This is Andy. Let me just chime in on the precedent question. I mean, just from the perspective of the negotiators, one of the things that we looked at was the Supreme Court decision in Arline under the Rehab Act and we felt like that was a good example of the Supreme Court decision that was interpreting the definition of disability, which is the same definition that was in the ADA, in a way that is more inclusive and does not impose that kind of strict burden that Toyota versus Williams tried to impose.
Okay, great. Okay, Operator, why don''t we go ahead? I know you have some questions in queue.
Okay, our first question. Go ahead, please.
Hi, yes, I appreciate why we don''t want to be listing disabilities but for people with environmental disabilities, with chemical sensitivities and so forth, when you dont have things listed or there is no specific protections, that really means there is no protection. I really want to find out how this might affect this population and so forth.
Well, thanks for your question. It is good to hear your voice. This is Andy. I think the things that are in the Bill that will give us new arguments that we don''t have under current law in the case of someone with environmental illness include the fact that the definition is to be interpreted broadly which is something that is specifically listed in the statute. The fact that we have overturned Toyota which said that substantial limits means prevents or severely restricts and said that major life activities meant activities that are central important to most peoples daily lives. That language from Toyota was deadly for people with environmental illness. I think it has been very difficult for people with those disabilities to bring a case and be successful on the definition question under current law. To the extent that there are ways to mitigate the impact of the environmental illness, the fact that we are fixing mitigating measures is going to be helpful for people with that disability. And then finally the fact that we have an illustrative list of major life activities and major bodily functions to me creates some interesting opportunities for folks with environmental illness to argue that their illness is impacting a major bodily function in a way that result in a substantial limitation. So, I think there is a lot in there that is a substantial improvement over current law for people with environmental illness. You are correct that it is not a slam dunk. You are correct that we didn''t specifically say that if you have environmental illness you are covered under the first prong but I think that again, the way I look at it, it is better than current law for people with environmental illness. And I think in many ways it is dramatically better. I dont know if Mike or Chris wants to add anything.
I would be interested in on the EEOC perspective, because I know that if we said the original ADA helped people you know with accommodations and so forth, I certainly don''t again think it helped people with chemical sensitivity.
Yeah, I think yeah, I think you are right in that regard, that you know that is certainly have been one of the more challenging disabilities to get covered under the law and that was before the definition was narrowed, but I think some of the language, that you know again, in writing regulations you know looking at the language that is in the Bill, I am hopeful that some of this will remain. But I can''t be sure until we see the actual Bill. You know, there is certainly you know direction to the EEOC to you know set the bar, the standard lower than what we had in our regulations pre-narrowing of the definition, so I think that is helpful. And I think the language that says, you know, convey that the question of whether an individuals impairment is a disability under the ADA should not demand extensive analysis. So, that to me, personally, I am not, again, I am not speaking for the EEOC, you know gives the message that you know we will look at medical documentation and we won''t you know, we shouldn''t be engaging in you know extensive analysis, that we should be taking someone''s word for it that you know, you have this disability that affects a major life activity. So and again, Andy is right, you know, expanding that and you know including the major bodily functions will certainly make it a lot easier. So, but again, no slam dunk.
And I do want to say that I think the Bill that was introduced originally which came from the NCD proposal and was called the ADA Restoration Act, I think that would have been a better bill for people with multiple chemical sensitivity. No question in my mind. The problem was that we quickly realized that it would be very difficult to pass that bill if not impossible without strong support from people like Orrin Hatch who supported the ADA the first time around and from groups like the Chamber and the Society for Human Resource Management who supported the ADA the first time around. So when we sat down with them and worked out a compromise we tried to work out a compromise that would be a substantial improvement over current law. But, obviously, we gave some stuff up in that process. And if all you had to show was that you had an impairment, I think for people with multiple chemical sensitivity it would have been an easier showing than the Bill that has been reintroduced in the Senate.
Thank you, thank you both.
Thank you. Our next question.
Hi, I have a question about whether the burden actually does shift from the employee to the employer and to get everybody''s perspective on that.
Mike, since you mentioned that in your remarks, you want to take the first crack.
Sure, there is no question under the original ADA Restoration Act as first introduced, that it would have shifted that burden. Under the House passed Bill and the Senate compromise, although I have not gone through the Senate compromise as much as Andy has, I was away when it was finally introduced. So the current law definition or current law standards under Title I remain the same, that the burden continues with the employee to prove that they are qualified individual with a person with disability.
This is Andy. We didn''t change that language in the Senate Bill that was re-introduced by Harkin and Hatch. And I do want to clarify that the concern that the employer community raised with that issue in the original Bill was viewed by a lot of us on the disability side as a drafting error. We weren''t trying to make a significant change in burdens of proof, but we were trying to do is make clear that you know it was important in disability discrimination cases to be able to reach the issue of whether you were discriminated against. And a lot of these cases people were not getting to that issue. But we wanted the burden shifting to work the same way it does under Title VII. And I think that was a relatively easy thing for us to negotiate with the employer community because we saw it as a drafting error.
But it is important to point out that as Andy and both Commissioner Griffin did, that again that is Title I, not necessarily Title III under the regarded as prong, and that under the regarded as prong, individuals are treated just like under the proposed legislation are treated, like other, Andy mentioned under Title VII statutes. That you dont have to, if you are regarded as having a disability whether you actually have it, you are covered under the Act.
Great. Okay, can we go onto the next question please?
Absolutely. Next question, go ahead please.
Hi, my question is to each of the panelists. I am wondering if you would address how you anticipate that the ADA Amendment Act will affect the ability to pursue class actions when reasonable accommodations are a sought-for remedy. And let me just give you a couple of examples, for example, would you, representation of a class of inmates in need of a reasonable accommodation because their medication distribution schedule interferes with their program activity. Another example would be a class action on behalf of individuals with moderate learning disabilities who need accommodations in test taking times at higher education institutions. That is my, I actually have two questions, am I allowed two? I know that is a pretty long one.
Let''s have them answer that one first. It gets confusing when we get too many questions.
Okay, thank you.
This is Andy. First, I want to thank, for her question and her leadership in this issue. Can you just turn your question around for us and tell us what the potential problem would be or if there is a potential way in which the Amendment Act would make it harder to bring those kinds of class actions than it is under current law?
Well, I guess my concern, I guess if I can use people with HIV as an example. It is not clear that employers or I guess in this case the defendants in institutional litigation will take as a given that all persons with HIV, some of whom may have relatively intact immune systems and who are relatively healthy except for the fact of their HIV infection, can all be considered covered as individuals with disabilities under prong one yet under prong three which I would see as sort of a natural mode of access to ADA coverage in a class action litigation, reasonable accommodations will no longer be available. And I guess I am also wondering, although I don''t have much experience representing individuals with moderate learning disabilities, I had some concerns about the materially restricts and how that will work in that situation. Does that, did I do what you asked me to do Anthony?
Andy, I am sorry.
It is no problem. I think you raised a good point. I don''t know that we have an ironclad response. It is kind of like the multiple chemical sensitivity question. I think there are going to be things that are going to get worked out in the courts in the wake of this legislation. I am hopeful that the fact that we have an illustrative list of major bodily functions will be something that will be very helpful to the litigators in the HIV context. I don''t pretend to be an expert on HIV disease but I am guessing that it is not just the immune system but there are other bodily functions that are impacted when someone has that diagnosis. When you couple that with the fact that we are asking courts to look at them in the absence of any mitigating measures, part of the reason that their immune systems are intact is because they are taking the right combination of medications, well, for the analysis of whether they are covered you would look at how they would be doing without those medications. So I guess I would see this bill as being a substantial improvement over current law for people who are trying to bring class actions on behalf of people who are HIV positive even if they are asymptomatic. But I am not a litigator and I think the point you raised about the regarded as prong and accommodations in the context of a class action is an interesting point. I think it was raised with our negotiating team and I did think it is an issue.
Well, I think, some of the, you know in the employment context anyway, you know there have been some cases most recently, a federal sector case against the State Department who had a blanket exclusion of allowing anybody with HIV/ AIDS to be deployed to a position overseas. So, things like that have already occurred. And I think you know Andy''s point about without the medication is also you know critical to this. But I do see opportunity for class actions, probably more extensively than we have seen in the past. And I think our new systemic approach here at the EEOC will be taking a very careful look at those possibilities and opportunities.
This is Mike Aitken. I would agree and I think particularly under the Title III piece we anticipate that there will be quite a bit more litigation in that area.
Did you mean prong three? I am sorry. Michael, did you mean prong three?
Prong three, what did I say? Title III? I am sorry, prong three. Yes. That was a Freudian slip.
Going back to your issue around learning disabilities, let me just say we have been working closely with the two major national groups representing the learning disabilities community: the Learning Disability Association of America and the National Council on Learning Disabilities. And you know, I think they have some of the same kind of worry about the Senate Bill and the House Bill that you articulated. They ended up supporting the House Bill. I have not seen the latest list of groups who are supporting the Senate Bill. I am guessing that they will come on in that list at some point. But, just know that there was some report language on the House side that they really liked that and it will be important to them that the manager statement on the Senate side includes something that is a shout-out to that positive language on the House side.
Perhaps the EEOC and the regulations may address something that is perhaps less of an ADA Amendments Act issue than is just sort of proceeding under prong one when pursuing a class action because I think that can be a stumbling block for litigators.
Thanks for raising that issue.
Next question please.
Our next question, go ahead, please.
Already been answered, thank you.
Okay, we can go onto the next question then.
Thank you. In that case, we will next hear from, your line is open.
Meanwhile we are waiting for, to get un-muted or whatever, I have a question from the online audience. This is from, her question is: How does the language we are talking about in the Bill relative to employment apply to public accommodations aspects of the ADA? Her specific concern is the extent to which children with disabilities are covered under the ADA in securing child care.
Well, this is Andy again. I mean the definitional stuff that we are changing in the ADA Amendments Act is the definition for purposes of the whole statute. So, even though Title I was the impetus for us to come to the table and try to get something passed because that is where we had the biggest problem, this fix will apply across the board in the ADA and the Rehab Act. There is a corresponding amendment in this Bill that changes the definition and the way it is interpreted under the Rehab Act as well. So my anticipation is that to the extent that there were problems with the definition for children in the context of child care, this Bill will help deal with those problems the same way it is helping adults in the employment context. I am not aware that there were a lot of problems for children in the context of K through 12 education, but maybe there were problems under the child care and I would be interested in knowing kind of more of the specifics of what the problems were. But I guess, my bottom line is I think that this bill will help to the extent that children are being told that they are not disabled enough or maybe the mitigating measure decision were making it so that children who were taking medication were not getting accommodations they needed in child care. If that is the case, I think this Bill will help.
That was the case. I know when I was at DLC, Andy we had a lot of child care cases where you know, it was either around you know medication issues and the administration of them or it was whether they actually wanted a kid with a disability in their program overall for a variety of weird reasons. So I too, think you know just based on my experience doing that work, this would help as well. Are you there?
Yeah. Okay. So why don''t we go ahead and take the next question then?
Thank you. Again, if you would like to queue up to ask a question, please press the one button on your touch tone phone. Our next question.
Does the new Bill require the employer to give an employee a different job if he or she cannot perform the current job?
This is Andy. The Senate Bill and the House Bill did not speak to that issue. We made a strategic decision kind of at the beginning of our process that we were addressing the definition of disability and not addressing the definition of reasonable accommodation or other issues or other problems that we had in the courts like the Echazabal case around direct threat. I mean there is certainly a number of other cases in the courts that have created problems for us, but strategically we decided it was going to be much more likely to pass and have a very big impact if we could address the definition. So, as this Bill doesnt touch that issue. I don''t know if Mike or Chris wants to add anything.
Yeah, I would, I mean I concur with what Andy said. I think we viewed that process as largely going forward as it currently is in terms of the employer going through the interpretive aspects of it but not changing dramatically.
Yeah, it doesnt, for us it doesn''t change anything. Nothing has been changed. Our position remains the same, that is part of the process in trying to accommodate somebody would be you know as a last resort, moving someone to an open position that they are qualified to do.
Okay, thank you.
I have another online question from an individual who is asking specifically to higher education. And I know this has been an issue with some of the entities in higher education who have expressed concern over the ADA Amendments Act. This question is: How do you see or anticipate that the Restoration Act, Amendments Act will affect disability service programs in higher ed in qualifying students for reasonable accommodations or academic adjustments?
Well, this is Andy, I mean we had a number of meetings with the leaders from the higher ed community in Washington. And I want to out Mike Aitken as it was done in his introduction he is a former higher ed person. So he can certainly chime in here. But I think the concern that they made very clear to us was that this term materially restricts, it was in the House Bill, was a new term, they didn''t know what it was going to mean for their population. So they were concerned about a potential for them to have to spend more money doing evaluations and providing accommodations to a whole new category of students. They acknowledged to us that they have not been aggressively leveraging the you know Sutton trilogy and the Toyota case to try to exclude students under higher ed. So they are not, you know the problems we are having in employment we havent been having in a big way in higher ed. So we said to them, well that is why we don''t think this Bill is going to create significant new problems for you, but we were willing in the Senate Bill to put in a new provision that makes it clear that this Bill does not impair their ability to enforce their academic standards which was the other issue that they raised with us that they felt strongly about. Mike, do you want to add anything?
I would agree with everything you said and I think even going a step further because the language in the Senate Bill moved back a little bit more on the definition they should have even less a concern. And I think part of it is also the way that they accommodate students versus the way employers generally accommodate. The way it was explained to me is they may have thousands of students requesting an accommodation at one time and they don''t always have the ability to do the individual assessments so they provide the accommodation and they were concerned about that pool increasing. But I would agree with Andy, I think there is less of a concern now and I have not heard of one since the Senate Bill was introduced.
You know frankly, I can never figure out what the concern was on their part at all. You know they don''t do the assessment and never really have. They rely on you to provide them with you know current medical documentation of your disability and what your accommodation needs are. So I never got this whole point at all and what they were concerned about but you know I think things remain the same for them under any changes. I can understand maybe materially restricts you know push the button for them, but you know I didn''t get it.
Well, Chris, this is Andy, I do want to say that I think part of the concern that we heard from the higher ed and the K-12 education community late in the process on the House side was that we sat down and negotiated with the employer community something that had the potential to have impacts on their budget and their population. So part of this was a process concern. They didn''t understand why we were impacting their obligations without them at the table.
And I do think they had a concern about in declining resources and finances where they didn''t have the resources to do that. Whether that was a real or imagined concern, that was a concern that was expressed.
Let me also just take this opportunity to point out, we have a consolidated website where we have posted all of the documentation that explains the Bill, both the House Bill and the Senate Bill. This is a joint website that the Society for Human Resource Management, the Epilepsy Foundation and all the groups that are part of our coalition are part of, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, it is another major part of the coalition, but the website is ADAbill.com. So if you go to www.adabill.com that is where you can get the latest information. AAPDs website, aapd.com, also has updates and if people sign up for our Justice For All listserv which is free, which you can do on our website, then you will get real-time updates from us as the Senate process unfolds.
Great, thank you. I think that is a comprehensive response to the education issues but I know that a lot of people who are in that arena, you know, have seen all of the various e-mails and things and blogs and stuff going on with this issue. And so obviously been one that has been on the minds of people in that arena. So, glad that you were able to address it. Additional questions from our audience Operator?
Yes, our next question in queue, go ahead, please.
Andy, comment and a question. Mike referred to the need to go to town hall meetings and rally members of the congressional delegation. Given all the fires that are burning, and I mean really burning in most states around funding and service cuts and the amount of bipartisan co-sponsorship on both of these Bills, it seems to me to be an unnecessary activity for those of us who are trying to organize activities to take care of real stuff that is in the face of people literally losing services in many states in this country today. And then my second question is, as somebody who recognizes the need to compromise and make things work, is there anything on the ADAbill.com website or another site where what is in the House Bill and Senate Bill is compared with the ADA Restoration Act as introduced? For those individuals who seem to think that they have been short shifted in this, and I have not kept up with the detail. Thanks.
Thank you, for that question and for a long career of leadership on these issues. You know I think I will take the second point first and then go back to your comment. We are doing side by side. The side by side that I think has been the focus of people''s efforts right now is just comparing the House Bill to the Senate Bill. We also had a side by side that I think is posted on that website that compares the House Bill with the Bill that was originally introduced. So I will take that back to our coalition and see if we could get a three way side by side that compares the Senate with the House with the ADA Restoration Act and with the current law, I mean that would be the fourth thing that would be worth comparing to. But going back to the comment, this one is a hard one. And you who are on the ground in Chicago and other cities around the country and states and rural communities, you are the best ones to decide you know what the priority is. I don''t want anybody to think that this is a done deal. I mean yes, we have brought bipartisan support in the Senate. Yes, we have strong activities happening from Senator Harkin and Senator Hatch. And, yes, the leadership, Senator Reid and Senator McConnell right now, emphasize right now, stay motivated to have this be one of the things they do and they are very short Senate session when they come back. That could change. So I think the reason Mike said what he said is we are trying to have as strong of a showing of bipartisan Senate support the day they come back as possible so that we can make a compelling case to Reid and McConnell that if you do nothing else, pass this Bill in the first week when you come back so that you can have this accomplishment and we can get it to the President''s desk and he can sign it. The other thing I would just say, if you are meeting with you know Senator Obama''s office or you are meeting with Senator Durbins office on this, you can have a meeting to talk about multiple issues. This is a win for the disability community that is making people like Senator Durbin and Congressman Miller on the House side start to realize how important this community is and how much clout we have and it motivates them to work with us on other issues. So if you are meeting with a Senate office this doesn''t have to be the only thing you are talking to them about during the recess. So I guess I am hopeful that some folks will be able to you know deal with their state issues, deal with other federal issues that they are working on, deal with the you know Tropic Thunder protests or whatever else people are working on but also find a way to put some time into making sure that the senators are supporting it. The reality is, Senator Obama and Senator Durbin are both co-sponsors and I don''t think they need a lot of reinforcement on this. But you know, there is a lot of other senators that aren''t on it yet and if folks can put some energy into that we would certainly appreciate it.
This is Mike Aitken. Just to jump on Andy''s last point. I mean there is a very short period of time left in this congressional term and there is a lot of competing interest. They have not even passed the budget yet for any of the House or the Senate. And they are only going to be in, we anticipate any where from four to five weeks. And particularly at the end of a congressional term time is of a premium in the Senate. And even though, as Andy mentioned, this Bill has strong bipartisan support; at 67 co-sponsors there is always a chance that other things could take precedent or take priority over that and they really need to hear from employers and employees and individuals with disabilities that this is an important Bill. And I agree with Andy, I think there is ways when you have your limited precious time when you are meeting with congressional office or state office holders, that you might you can work in multiple messages.
And I appreciate that, and there is several of us who have regular meetings with Senator Durbins and Obamas staff and others, and you are right, we can work it in. I was just reacting I think to the need to sort of mobilize lots of people and town hall meetings and I think we can do it at least in this state in a much more focused way. Thank you.
Great. Next question please.
I am showing one more question in queue. Go ahead please.
Do you have your phone on mute? Can un-mute it, possibly?
Very good. Hello. I am in California. I am in one of those states that is very hard hit with disability actions and programs that are being cut. I actually have, first of all I like to thank you for this wonderful conference. I think this is very uplifting from the impressions I had about all this before. I am a systems change advocate and a lot of the work we do is access. And both in the private sector and in the public sector, I want to know if this amended Act does continue to foster removal of physical barriers and so forth. And along with that, the service animal applications. I know with more and more people using service animals, there seems to be a ranking of service animals. So I want to know if that also remains the same? So in terms of the public and private sector, one of the things I am facing in this state and in my county particularly is the inaccessibility in homeless and emergency shelters and hence the funding for the physical removal of barriers.
This is Andy. I think, again, the Bill is changing the definition of disability in the way it has been interpreted by the courts that may have kind of a marginal impact on something like the service animal issue, to the extent that some people are being denied service animals based on the fact that they don''t have a disability. But I do want to take this opportunity to point out, and I know Robin organized a call on it, but there is a notice of proposed rule making out that has a deadline coming up very soon where the Department of Justice under the current Attorney General Mukasey is proposing a thousand pages of changes to the ADA accessibility guidelines and regulations, which I have been told by a lot of folks who read the thousand pages, and I confess I have not, but I have been told it creates new problems around accessibility in all kinds of ways, including the service animal issue. So, if people haven''t taken the time to comment on those regs, I strongly encourage folks to do it. If you haven''t taken the time to write a letter to Attorney General Mukasey asking him to extend the deadline for the comments, I strongly encourage you to do it. Because that is a major change in the kind of accessibility issues that the last questioner is raising. And I don''t think we have had enough time as a community to really read those proposed changes and process them.
And if you don''t have all the information on those changes and such, I would direct you to the Department of Justice website where you can access the information on how to link to the actual proposed changes and the comment process. That would be on their website www.ada.gov; it is right on their front page, information about that particular issue. But we also did have an ADA audio conference program on July 15 with the Department of Justice on this particular issue, and our transcript from that session is on our website in the Archives, both the transcript and the audio file you can listen to, and that is at www.ada-audio.org and that would be in the Archives as well.
Robin, I just want to add that if people want to kind of see an advocacy perspective on what is in those regulations I know that the Disability Rights Education Defense Fund at www.dredf.org I know they have pretty extensive comments and action alerts on their website.
And actually I was just going to say on the homeless shelter issue, we did a lot of that work in Massachusetts and nothing in this changes that might make it easier to get somebody covered under the definition, but you know the physical inaccessibility in the programmatic or the applications, the blanket exclusions of people with psychiatric disabilities, you know, people with you know maybe service animals and things like that, is still you know violates the law and it is a matter of you know again, people knowing what their rights are but also pursuing systematic avenues to make those things change. But I don''t think any of these changes will impact or you know impede that from happening.
Chris, this is Andy. I do want to acknowledge something that Chris said earlier I know we are running out of time, but Chris mentioned the opportunity in the wake of this legislation assuming it passes, and lets not assume that it is going to pass, lets understand we all have work to do to get it pass. But assuming it does pass, the effective date is January of 2009, and you know I think there is a real opportunity for us in the context of the next administration to spend some real money educating the protected class and also educating covered entities. And when we do that it is an opportunity to remind people what their rights are under all the provisions of the ADA and to remind the covered entities what their obligations are under all the provisions of the ADA so I am hopeful that we can leverage this new legislation and the new regulations coming out of it to do a whole new round of education which I think has been needed for a long time.
I agree, I agree and as I said earlier I really hope that we are able to devote resources to an extensive training. Because again, civil rights don''t get enforced unless the people affected by them know what their rights are and actually do the enforcement.
Thank you. Well, we are at the bottom of the hour at this point and I do want to kind of wrap things up today. And I do want to thank Mike and Andy and Chris, all of you, for your time and your willingness to address this topic with us today. Just so our participants have some idea of where they can continue to get information to keep updated because in some ways this is the most activity that has happened around the ADA for a while. And I know there is a great deal of interest and at no time has it been more important that people remain updated and current with what is happening. So just let me identify them and then you can chime in and let me know where I might be off or there might be other things. But I know that one source Andy is on the AAPD website to the Justice For All, the JFA blog and your regular email updates, it got a lot of information about the status of the ADA Amendments Act and such. And Mike, where might somebody who is a member of SHRM look on your site for the updates that you will be providing your members?
Well, we are doing it jointly through the coalition as Andy mentioned, but it is also on the SHRM website at www.shrm.org. and just go to the government affairs section and there is stuff there.
Okay, great. And I would assume Christine that the EEOC will continue to, I mean they obviously can''t do anything until there is actual legislation there that they can respond to. But then they would be posting information on their website in the areas their guidances and things of that nature and announcing those through press releases as that would become available, correct?
Exactly. We are waiting optimistically for a law to be passed then and so we can get to work.
Great and again, the National Network of ADA Centers are also known as Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers the DBTACs is responsible for this call today and are an ongoing source of information and through their various newsletters and email blasts and things of that nature. So if you are not currently connected to any of these various resources this would be a time to do that. We also remind you that the Department of Justice does have the rule making, the deadline currently is August 18th. As you heard Andy talk about that many people are you know really encouraging that you make comments asking them to extend the comment period so that more dialogue can happen around those particular issues. You heard Chris talked about the fact that when this legislation, and I will use Andys positive tone, is passed and signed by the President there will be notice of proposed rule making from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that will implement these changes in regulations and such so there will be more information and more opportunities for input on that. And we also are planning that we will be doing a follow-up to this session after the passage of the legislation to look at how things are going and update people on what the status of some of these trainings and some other efforts that the federal agencies and other groups may also be putting forth. So look for that in 2009 it is going to be one of our scheduled programs again under the ADA Audio Conference series. So I would thank everyone, would remind you if you are part of the series or interested, our next session, our regularly scheduled session for August is August 19 and it is addressing issues with accessibility within the hotel hospitality lodging industry. So we would invite you to join that session if you are interested. More information again is on our website. A reminder that the recording and transcript of this program will be available within ten business days posted to the website. Again, www.ada-audio.org, and if you have questions about any of these issues discussed today, please contact your Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center at 800-949-4232 both voice and TTY. Again, thank you to our speakers, thank you to our participants and I hope everyone has a great day.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your participation in todays conference. This does conclude the program and you may now disconnect. Everyone, have a great day.