It's been 18 months since the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) went into effect. Here are the results:
More than 12,000 charges of ADA violations were filed in the first year. ADA complaints have been averaging more than 1,200 a month, so we can expect total charges to exceed 14,000 in 1994. That is more than the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) bargained for -- and the legislation provided no additional funds to handle the increased load.
About half of the charges filed in the first year were for wrongful discharge, and another 22% for failure to accommodate an individual in an existing job. Only 13% were related to hiring problems, which were what the ADA was supposed to address. Of the ADA charges filed in year one, 18.6% related to back impairments, 9.7% to mental illness, 4.1% to heart impairments, 3.3% to vision impairments, and 2% to people who had tested HIV positive. More than 25% of the charges did not conform to any disability category established by the EEOC.
All of which confirms the worst fears of the ADA's opponents. "The ADA's scope is far greater than what was publicized when the Act was passed," wrote the editors of "Preventive Strategies for Employers," a newsletter published by the law firm of Jackson, Lewis, Schnitzler & Krupman. "[The statistics] also illustrate that most ADA complainants have 'hidden impairments.' As a result, employers may fail to recognize or may underestimate potential ADA exposure when making adverse employment decisions affecting sick or injured employees. A more appropriate title for the Act may have been the Americans with Injuries and Illnesses Act."
We asked a spokesperson for the EEOC whether the ADA was working. He said, "Before you can answer that question, a definition of working has to be agreed upon." We thought that was supposed to happen before the law was passed.* * *