In New Jersey, federal protection is not as important on account of the strong State measures to eradicate the cancer of discrimination in the workplace. This is mostly included in the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. In New York, where the State law is not as strong, employees generally look to federal law for protection. The significant distinctions between the employment laws of New York and New Jersey are included in the Garbar published article. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) prohibits discrimination based on disability. It is applicable to businesses with 15 or more employees.
Damages available under the ADAAA are the same as the damages available pursuant to Title VII. The statute permits back pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages. Like Title VII, the compensatory and punitive damages are capped. The ADA was amended in 2008 and went into effect January 1, 2009. One of the primary reasons for the amendment was due to judicial interpretation of the ADA. Similarly to Title VII and the ADEA, federal courts generally do not act favorably toward employees who bring cases of discrimination. Federal court judges, often times, favor businesses and corporations. This is something an aggrieved employee should bear in mind when considering filing a lawsuit in federal court pursuant to Title VII, the ADEA or the ADA.
Nevertheless, the legislature acted and created the ADAAA which significantly expands the protections offered to aggrieved employees with disabilities. The ADA originally defined a disability as: (i) having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (ii) having a record of such an impairment; or (iii) being regarded as having such an impairment. While the definition has generally not changed, the interpretation of the definition has significantly changed. As a result, and as interpreted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in its regulations, a much more broader view is now required with respect to the definition of a disability and the major life activities (and major bodily functions) which, under the definition, would be considered substantially limited.
Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. Major bodily functions include, but are not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.