Employment Law Update: The Ada’s Pre-2008 Amendment Definition Of “Disability” Will Still Apply In Some Instances.

In an opinion issued on March 22, 2010–Carmona v. Southwest Airlines Co.–the Fifth Circuit ruled that the 2008 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) broad definition of “disability” will not be afforded special consideration when interpreting the pre-amendment definition of “disability.” Effective January 1, 2009, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), was enacted to correct what Congress viewed was an overly restrictive interpretation of the ADA’s definition of “disability” that had been adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court. Not long after its enactment, the Fifth Circuit ruled that it would not apply retroactively. EEOC v. Agro Distribution, LLC, 555 F.3d 462, 469 n. 8 (5th Cir. 2009). In Carmona, the district court found that the plaintiff–who filed suit long before the ADAAA became effective–was not disabled under the pre-ADAAA definition of “disability.” On appeal, the plaintiff argued not for retroactive application of the more lenient ADAAA definition, but that the ADAAA as legislation subsequent to the Supreme Court’s restrictive interpretation of the term was entitled to great weight in the Fifth Circuit’s analysis. The Fifth Circuit rejected this argument, holding that in order for it to depart from the Supreme Court’s settled interpretation, it would need to find that Congress intended the ADAAA to apply retroactively, which it had already declined to do.