Employer Agreement with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: Implications for Rehabilitation Counseling

Article excerpt

Persons with disabilities are substantially under-represented in the United States' labor force. For example, the Bureau of the Census (1987) reported that, of the 13.3 million persons with disabilities of working age in the United States, only 33.6% were participating in the labor force. For nondisabled persons between the ages of 16 and 65, the labor force participation rate was 78%. Discriminatory attitudes held by employers toward persons with disabilities have often been described as contributing to the difficulties that members of this population have experienced in achieving equal employment opportunities (Bolton & Roessler, 1985; Carrell & Heavrin, 1987; DeJong & Lifchez, 1983; Houck, 1987; Jamero, 1979; Lobed, 1985: Pati & Hilton, 1980).

Although Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 mandated that agencies and businesses receiving federal funds not discriminate against qualified persons with disabilities in their employment practices and policies (Album, 1988; Susser & Jett, 1988), this legislation did not affect private-sector employers who received no federal funds. Therefore, persons with disabilities have often had no legal protection when confronted with discriminatory employment practices.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), P.L. 101-336, is designed to ensure the integration of persons with disabilities into the mainstream of American society. This legislation prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in four major areas affecting the private sector: (a) employment, (b) telecommunications, (c) transportation, and (d) public services and accommodations. The employment provisions of this legislation, which will become fully effective in July, 1994, will require all employers who have more than 15 employees to provide reasonable accommodation for the known limitations of qualified persons with disabilities and to ensure that their hiring policies and practices are nondiscriminatory (Rovner, 1990).

The ADA promises an unprecedented initiative for providing equal employment opportunity for qualified persons with disabilities in private-sector employment (Doyon, 1990). Implementation of this legislation may be problematic, however, if employers do not agree with its employment provisions. According to Mithaug (1979), disability legislation does not, of itself, change responses to the efforts of persons with disabilities to achieve equal opportunity. Attitude theory indicates that, by understanding an individual's attitudes, information is gained which will help to predict that individual's behavior (Yuker, 1965). If employers do not agree with this legislation, then compliance at more than a minimal level may not be readily achieved without litigation, a process that could prove costly for both employers and persons with disabilities.

The employment community appears to be aware of the ADA and its provisions and concerned about the potential impact of litigation on their business practices (Darkery, 1990; Mandel, 1989; Millar, 1990; Murphy, Barlow, & Hatch, 1990). Knowing employers' agreement with the ADA and identifying employer characteristics predictive of their agreement may help rehabilitation counselors and persons with disabilities develop cooperative, facilitative relationships with employers as implementation of the ADA becomes a reality. The primary purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which employers agree with the ADA and to identify possible predictors of their agreement. A secondary purpose was to determine if employers differ in their agreement with the four areas of the legislation affecting the private sector (a) employment, (b) transportation, (c) telecommunications, and (d) public services and accommodations.

Identification of Predictor Variables

A review of the business and human-services literature was conducted to identify variables that have been shown to affect attitudes towards and/or employment of persons with disabilities. …


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