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Washington ADA: What you need to know

The Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) prohibits employment practices that discriminate on the basis of any sensory, mental, or physical disability. The law covers employers with eight or more employees, including the state and its political subdivisions (WA Rev. Stat. Sec. 49.60.010 et seq.).

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"Disability" defined. The WLAD defines "disability" as a sensory, mental, or physical impairment that:

  • Is medically cognizable or diagnosable;
  • Exists as a record or history; or
  • Is perceived to exist, whether or not it actually exists (WA Rev. Code Sec. 49.60.040).

The scope of the law's definition is much broader than the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, in fact, was enacted in response to a state Supreme Court decision that adopted the narrower definition of disability in the ADA. Under the amended state law, a disability may be temporary or permanent, common or uncommon, mitigated or unmitigated. In addition, a disability exists whether or not it limits the ability of an individual to work in general, to work at a particular job, or whether or not it limits any other activity within the scope of the WLAD.

The amended ADA. Although amendments to the ADA that became effective January 1, 2009, expanded the definition of disability, the definition under the WLAD is broader. However, the ADA's amendments expressly changed the definition of a "regarded as" disability. Under the amended ADA, a person is regarded as having an ADA disability if he or she is subjected to an adverse employment action because of an actual or perceived impairment. The impairment does not have to substantially limit a major life activity in order to meet the definition of a "regarded as" disability. Minor or ...


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