Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Chairman OWENS. Thank you. Mr. Paul Wharen.

Mr. WHAREN. Chairman Owens and members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the subcommittees on Employment Opportunities and Select Education today to testify upon a very important piece of legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I am Paul Wharen, Project Manager for Thomas P. Harkins, Inc., a general contracting firm based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Harkins has been in operation for 24 years, and today is ranked by Engineering News Record magazine as number 163 of the top 400 general contractors in the Nation.

To give you a better idea of what Harkins does, I would like to read our Mission statement:

"Thomas P. Harkins, Inc. is a construction company that provides quality services to clientele engaged in the development of multi-family housing, elderly/lifecare and commercial facilities, in order to sustain profitable operations, thereby creating growth and opportunity for our people.”

Harkins is a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors' Metro-Washington Chapter. It is my pleasure to represent ABC at the hearings this morning before your subcommittees.

ABC supports Congress' goal of ending discrimination against the disabled. At Harkins, we place a great deal of pride in our progressive equal opportunity employment policy. We have people from all walks of life employed in our office and on our job sites, including people with disabilities.

Harkins is committed to assisting anyone with the potential and desire to develop a career in the construction industry. Our society needs the talents and abilities of the disabled.

I have found that people with disabilities on our staff to be among my most dedicated and loyal employees. However, the realities of the construction industry generally limit our placement of the disabled to our main office.

Construction is a dynamic but dangerous occupation, second only to coal mining in industrial accidents. Mr. Chairman, while ABC is supportive of the intent of the ADA bill, there is a great deal of concern among construction employers regarding the clarity of many of the terms and concepts contained in the bill, 2273.

Specifically, construction employers want to know exactly what will be expected of them under ADA, in making accommodations for the disabled. Therefore, I believe the terms, definitions, and concepts in this bill should be defined as clearly as possible to ensure the goals of the bill can be reached through its methods.

The first item which troubles me, and I am sure a great many employers, is the broad, vaguely defined concepts of "reasonable accommodation" and "undue hardship.” The concept of reasonable ness has perplexed and eluded lawyers and lawmakers ever since it was introduced.

The terms are subjective by definition. One person's reasonableness is another's undue hardship. I believe the use of these concepts broadly defined in this legislation will only perpetuate the overburdening of our already backlogged legal system.

What is needed is a common denominator; something that will allow for measurement and objectivity so that an employer and employee can tell when the balance has been reached, where the line has been crossed. For most employers and particularly in construction, cost effectiveness is a major factor in the analysis of what can reasonably be done to accommodate an employee.

Under bill 2273, it is not clear how much an employer would be expected to spend and to what lengths he or she must go in achieving the accommodation. Another factor that should be taken into consideration is the nature of the industry or the particular job and the extent of the person's disability.

As I pointed out, the construction job site is a dangerous place to work. I can tell you frankly that there are jobs which I think it is impossible to accommodate people with some disabilities, even with unlimited resources. A construction site requires unrestricted mo bility to negotiate the clutter and limited access areas that are part of the project.

It is beyond my concept of reasonable accommodation to see how such a site could be made safely accessible to someone in a wheelchair, for example. However, there are positions in construction companies that can be made accessible for an employee with such a handicap.

In fact, Harkins employs a contracts manager who is wheel. chaired-bound and recently required accommodation to work on a particular project. This employee, Dave, generally works out of our main office in Silver Spring.

However, the developer for a high rise project, Harkins was contracted to build, imposed a requirement that only those people working at the construction site could be paid as a cost of the project.

Therefore, Dave had to be brought into the actual site for an 18month period. This required extensive renovation and accommodation, just to enable him to work in the trailer which serves as a temporary office on a larger construction site.

For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with the physical conditions of a construction site, there is usually little in the way of human comforts or conveniences, including parking and even bathroom facilities.

Workers often have to park in a public lot and use portable toilets. However, to accommodate one person on the site, we had to provide special parking for his van, build ramps into the trailer, widen all of the corridors in the trailer, modify his work area so that everything was the proper height, and put a bathroom in the trailer.

Bathrooms are very rare in construction job site trailers as it re quires obtaining a water and sewer hookup for a temporary office. In addition, an assistant had to be assigned to help Dave get around the site, which was possible only after the structure was largely completed.

We were able to make this accommodation for Dave, primarily because we are a large, stable construction company. There are many construction employers who simply could not afford such a move. In fact, some do not even maintain a trailer on the job site that could be modified.

Clearly, what was a reasonable accommodation in our eyes would be an undue hardship in some other construction company's views. It is my hope that language identifying and quantifying some of these factors would be included in the ADA bill's definition of "reasonable accommodation."

Perhaps the second largest concern for construction employers is how the ADA bill will impact our ability to maintain safe work sites. As project manager, a large portion of my job focuses upon job site safety.

The use of illegal drugs and alcohol on the construction site is extremely dangerous, and is often a contributing factor to work site accidents. Several years ago, ABC made prevention of substance abuse in the work place a number one priority.

We must be certain that the ADA bill does not tie employers' hands who are taking steps to stop America's drug problem.

The current language of H.R. 2273 merely states that "qualification standards” may include “requiring that the current use of alcohol or drugs by an alcoholic or drug abuser not pose a direct threat to property or the safety of others in the work place or program.'

ABC strongly supports the ability of employers to maintain a work place that is drug-free, not simply monitored for those employees who pose a "direct threat,” through illegal drug use.

Many construction employers conduct pre-employment drug tests on applicants for work on a construction site. This process is implemented because it has been shown to drastically reduce the number of accidents on the work site, and increase the quality of the work on projects.

The "direct-threat" language, as well as the prohibition of preemployment drug testing, in H.R. 2273 will greatly inhibit contractors' efforts in the area of work site safety.

I strongly urge the members of the Education and Labor Committee to amend H.R. 2273 in such a way that current users of illegal drugs or those abusing alcohol would be removed from the protected disabled status.

Mr. Chairman, ABC is concerned with many other provisions in H.R. 2273. However, in the interest of time, I would like to have them inserted in the record of today's hearing as an appendix to my testimony.

Again, I thank you all for the opportunity to testify today on such a landmark legislation as the Americans with Disabilities Act, and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding my testimony.

[The prepared statement of Paul D. Wharen follows:]

Statement of Associated Builders

and Contractors

on

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, H.R. 2273

before the

SUBCOMMITTEES ON DIPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITES

AND
SELECT EDUCATION
EDUCATION AND LABOR COWITTEE
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

SEPTEMBER 13, 1989

presented by

PAUL D. WHAREN
PROJECT MANAGER FOR THOMAS P. HARKINS, INC.

silver Spring, Maryland

Speaking for the Mortt Shop

no 1863 Street, XX. Washington, Da. 20001

(200) 14:00

Chairman Martinez, Chairman Owens, and Members of the Committee:

I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Education and Labor Subcommittees on Employment Opportunities and Select Education of the v.s. House of Representatives today to testify upon a very important piece of legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I am Paul Wharen, Project Manager for Thomas P. Harkins, Inc., a general contracting firm based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Harkins, Inc. has been in operation for 24 years, and today is ranked by ENR magazine as number 163 of the top 400 general contractors in the nation. To give you a better idea of what Harkins, Inc. does, I would like to read you our Mission Statement:

"Thomas P. Harkins, Inc. is a construction company that provides quality services to clientele engaged in the development ot multi-family housing, elderly/lifecare and commercial facilities, in order to sustain profitable operations, thereby creating growth and opportunity for our people." Harkins, Inc.

is a

member of Associated Builders and Contractors' Metro-Washington Chapter. Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a national construction industry trade association representing 18,000 contractors, subcontractors and suppliers nationwide. The members believe in the "merit shop" philosophy of awarding construction contracts to the lowest responsible bidder. Today, more than 70% of all construction in this country is done the merit shop way. It is my pleasure to represent ABC at the hearing this morning

before

your subcommittees.

ABC supports Congress' goal of ending discrimination against the disabled. At Harkins, Inc., we place a great deal of pride in our progressive equal opportunity employment policy. We have people from all walks of life employed in our office and on our jobsites, including people with disabilities. Harkins is committed to assisting anyone with the potential and desire to develop a career in the construction industry.

Our society needs the talents and abilities of the disabled. I have found the people with disabilities on our staff to be among my most dedicated and loyal employees. However, the realities of the construction industry generally limit our placement of the disabled to our main office. Construction is a dynamic, but dangerous occupation--second only to coal mining in industrial accidents.

Mr. Chairmen, while ABC is supportive of the intent of the ADA bill, there is a great deal of concern among construction employers regarding the clarity of many of the terms and concepts contained in the bíll, H.R. 2273. Specifically, construction employers want to know exactly what will be expected of them, under ADA, in making accommodations for the disabled. Therefore, I believe the terms,

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »