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Press Release 07-19-1994


WASHINGTON -- On July 26, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will expand its coverage to include employers with 15 or more employees, bringing the ADA into parity with federal prohibitions against employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

Title I of the ADA, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and in state and local governments, has a two-step phase-in schedule. When the law initially took effect on July 26, 1992, it covered employers with 25 or more workers. On July 26, 1994, exactly two years after its initial effective date, the ADA's coverage will expand to include employers with 15 or more workers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) estimates that the expanded coverage will affect roughly 86 percent of the nation's workforce. This works out to be 86 million workers, employed by 666,000 businesses -- up from 264,000 under the initial coverage -- and operating in approximately 1.7 million different locations.

The expanded protection, EEOC says, means greater employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, estimated to be about 43 million Americans.

Under Title I, qualified individuals with disabilities are protected from discrimination in the job application process, in hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and in other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities, provided that the accommodation does not impose an "undue hardship" on the employer's business.

The federally funded Job Accommodation Network reports that 62 percent of accommodations cost from $0 to $500. The law also allows small businesses to get tax credits for their expenditure.

Peggy R. Mastroianni, director of EEOC's ADA Division, reports feedback from many employers is that the small cost of the majority of accommodations enables good workers to stay on the job, thus eliminating the cost of training new employees, and increasing productivity.

As a result of more employers and employees being covered by the ADA, EEOC expects that its charge receipts will increase. Last year -- the first full year of ADA enforcement -- EEOC received almost 88,000 charges, the most in its 29-year history. Over 17 percent of those 88,000 charges contained ADA issues.

In addition to investigating charges, EEOC continues to carry out its mandate to inform the public, employers, and others about the provisions of Title I and all other agency-enforced laws. Mastroianni says the educational efforts seem to be working. She cautions, however, that dissemination of information will be more important than ever since many small businesses do not have the resources and access to information about federal regulations that larger employers might have.

Nevertheless, she says, "Employers are getting more sophisticated about the ADA," particularly in certain areas such as preemployment inquiries and examinations, and health insurance caps and exclusions.

Thousands of businesses have learned about the ADA either through direct training by EEOC personnel or through training funded by EEOC and other federal agencies. For example, an EEOC-Justice Department contract was awarded to the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), which provided training in Title I and other aspects of the ADA for 400 individuals with different disabilities from across the country. The contract called for them to pass on the training to employers and other entities affected by the Act in their communities. As a result, over 138,000 people had been trained by the end of the contract. DREDF reports that the ripple effect of this training continues.

The Regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTAC) are another federal initiative that is providing answers to businesses, state and local agencies, and the public with questions about the ADA. Calls to DBTAC's toll free number, 800-949-4ADA (TDD callers use the same number), have averaged about 6,000 a month since the program began in October 1991.

Publications on the laws enforced by EEOC are available to the public by calling toll free 800-669-EEOC (TDD: 800-800-3302). Since 1992, nearly 2 million ADA-related publications, including the "ADA Technical Assistance Manual," have been disseminated to the public free of charge.

In addition to distributing information through printed publications, EEOC field offices have made more than 1,700 ADA presentations to a combined audience of about 129,000 individuals. General information about the ADA and other laws within EEOC's jurisdiction may be obtained by calling the EEOC office serving your area on 800-669-4000 (each EEOC field office has its own TDD number).

The Commission also has released policy guidance to further clarify particular aspects of the law. Issuances include "Interim Enforcement Guidance on the Application of the ADA to Disability-Based Distinctions in Employer Provided Health Insurance" and "Enforcement Guidance on Preemployment Disability Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations Under the ADA."

Other laws enforced by EEOC are: Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal government; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Equal Pay Act; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.