Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

The Americans with Disabilities Act : A Note on Personnel Policy Impacts in State Government[*]

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

The Americans with Disabilities Act : A Note on Personnel Policy Impacts in State Government[*]

Article excerpt

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is important legislation designed to prohibit discrimination against disabled persons, but most state and local governments covered by the Act were already prohibited from discrimination against the disabled by provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This article reports the results of a national survey designed to measure the perceptions of personnel managers from state government departments and agencies regarding the impact of the ADA on public personnel management practices given concurrent coverage of the Rehabilitation Act. A majority of the managers from organizations subject to the Rehabilitation Act reported that the ADA had no significant effects on their organizations. Substantial proportions of respondents agreed, however, that the ADA did have certain more narrowly defined effects on public personnel practices. Possible explanations for the perceived effects of the ADA despite coverage by the Rehabilitation Act are considered.

[*] An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, MA, September 3-6, 1998. This research was made possible by grants from the Carl Vinson institute of Government and the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Georgia. Special thanks go to Richard W. Campbell and Rebecca A. Hill.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is fundamental and comprehensive civil rights legislation designed to protect disabled individuals from discrimination by public or private employers and to ensure that public facilities, services, and accommodations are accessible to the disabled.[1] Passage of the law in 1990 drew considerable attention, with advocates for the disabled applauding the Act and its provisions as a major accomplishment, while some in the business community expressed concern over projected costs of compliance.[2] In the intervening years, various aspects of the Act and its implementation have been reviewed and discussed by numerous practitioners and academicians concerned with the law's potential effects on public personnel management practices.[3]

The major provisions of the law with implications for public personnel management are widely known. In addition to banning discrimination by private employers, Title I of the ADA prohibits discrimination by state or local governments against qualified disabled persons in all stages of the employment process including application procedures, selection, training, promotion, compensation, and dismissal. Title II prohibits discrimination in the provision of public services, and for the purposes of enforcement, "public services" have been interpreted to include public employment.[4] When the law went into effect in 1992, the provisions of Title I applied only to employers with twenty-five or more employees, but coverage was extended to employers with fifteen or more employees two years later. However, employment practices of all state and local governments, regardless of the size of their work forces, were required to be in compliance with the law in 1992 because of the provisions of Title II.[5]

Federal government agencies were excluded from coverage of the ADA because anti-discrimination and affirmative action provisions of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 already governed the federal sector. Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibited the federal government from discriminating against the disabled and required that federal agencies establish affirmative action plans for the hiring and advancement of disabled persons. Section 503 imposed similar requirements on federal contractors. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibited discrimination against the disabled by any organization receiving federal financial assistance. The ADA was modeled after regulations implementing Section 504, and many of the terms and concepts contained within the ADA were previously articulated in those regulations. …

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