An Examination of Small Businesses in the Media Industry and Their Preparedness for Compliance with the Employment Provisions of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act

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ABSTRACT

Almost half of the 43 million disabled Americans are able to work, but less than six million are employed. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was created to remedy this inequity. Surveys of small businesses before the effective date of the Act suggest a lack of awareness and compliance preparedness by many businesses. Because most small businesses become aware of pertinent regulations via the media, it was postulated that small businesses in the media industry would be more aware of ADA. A national survey of 50 small media businesses examined awareness of the Act and state of compliance. Of the 47 companies that responded, 70% claimed awareness; 81% reported no compliance problems; 77% stated compliance would create no financial problems; and 55% said no changes for compliance were required.

INTRODUCTION

In 1990, when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, there were approximately 43 million disabled Americans in the United States. Almost half, 21 million, were physically able to work, yet less than six million were employed. Thus 15 million, or 71%, of employable disabled Americans were not working (Barlow, 1991). In July, 1992, the ADA went into effect for the 264,000 companies with 25 or more employees, covering 87% of United States wage earners ("Help For," 1992).

About one in every twelve Americans has a work-related disability. One in three severely disabled adults is Hispanic or black, compared to one in five just a decade ago. Disabled adults are almost four times as likely as non-disabled adults to have less than a ninth-grade education. Disabled men in the labor force number abut 36%, compared to 42% a decade ago; however, over the same time period, disabled female workers have risen from 24% to 28% (LaFraniere, 1992).

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U S. C. 12101 et seq) was designed to remedy some of these disturbing inequities. The Act has three sections aimed at requiring businesses and public transportation firms to accommodate disabled people. Essentially it deals with employment, access to public facilities, and access to public transportation (ADA, 1990; Barlow, 1991; Isreal & Scott, 1991; McKee, 1991). This paper examines that portion of the ADA that relates to employment in media organizations.

Title I of the ADA (1990) covers employers, employees, job candidates, employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees. The Act prohibits discrimination against any qualified person regarding any conditions, terms, or privilege of employment. The term disabled refers to any physical or mental impairment substantially limiting one's major life activities, having a record of such impairment, or being regarded as having such.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was tasked with preparing implementing regulations to assist businesses in complying with the provisions of ADA. These regulations are found in 29 C.F.R Part 1630 (Barlow, 1991). Businesses with 25 or more employees had to be in compliance no later than July 26, 1992, while businesses with 15-24 employees have until July 26, 1994 (ADA, 1990).

Prior to the July 1992 compliance date, several studies and news articles had predicted extreme compliance difficulties would be encountered with associated high dollar costs (Ballenger, Franklin, & Robinson, 1992; LaFraniere, 1992; Otis, 1991; Saddler, 1991; Saddler, 1992).

Other studies though suggested that compliance would not create a financial burden for most small businesses (Kornblau & Ellexson, 1991; Lublin, 1992; Ward, 1991).

Keeping current on regulatory requirements for small businesses today is an imposing task. Just in the past six years, for example, Congress has passed ten major laws regulating small businesses (Saddler, 1992). Small business owners and managers complain that knowledge and compliance of this vast jungle of regulatory requirements is beyond the abilities of most that lack staffs to determine who must abide by what laws and how (Saddler, 1992). …