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phrase is defined differently in various laws. We believe that it would be reasonable to define this phrase as suggested by the Attorney General in his letter to Senator Kennedy. He states that “pattern or practice" should refer to egregious and willful acts of discrimination.
Also of concern in the enforcement section of title III is the undefined phrase "monetary damages." While the Senate committee report indicates that monetary damages are not punitive, it does not state what is intended. The chief Senate sponsor of the bill, Senator Harkin, stated firmly and repeatedly during Senate debate that damages could be awarded under the ADA bill-could not be awarded, excuse me.
Therefore, NFIB strongly urges that monetary damages be specifically defined to mean out of pocket expenses incurred by a plaintiff as a result of the actions of a business. Such clear direction would provide consistency and clarity.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, without question the ADA bill in our estimation is one of the most sweeping civil rights bills in decades. It is not enough to agree with the goals of this legislation. Members of this committee must also reach a balance between its noble intentions and the real world consequences of its vague language.
NFIB urges member to carefully weigh the ramifications of specific language in the ADA bill, so that the clearest and most enforceable statute can be enacted. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. EDWARDS. Thank you very much, Mr. Motley.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is o voluntary membership organization made up of more than 570.000
small and independent business owners nationwide. Our membership parallels the national business population in that approximately 50% of our members own retail and service enterprises: 25% are in manufacturing and construction; and the remaining 25% operate agricultural, transportation, mining, wholesale, financial, insurance. or real estate enterprises. The average NFIB member has 13 employees and grosses about $350.000 in annual sales.
NFIB does not want to oppose the ADA bill. In fact, we believe the bil's Intent -- to provide greater access for the disabled -- is noble and
well intentioned. Proponents of the bill have noted that small
businesses voluntarily have done more than larger businesses to accommodate the disabled. Small business owners view the disabled
as educated, reliable, and talented employees. In a diminishing labor
pool, the disabled are high on the list of desirable employees. And employers take pride in encouraging and sharing their success with their disabled employees.
The Guardian of
Small business owners also see the disabled as customers and clients, and in order to compete for their purchasing power, many voluntarily make adjustments in their facilities to accommodate the disabled.
While a good deal more needs to be done to accommodate the
disabled, small business owners have done a great deal voluntarily to provide access to the disabled. And more will be done on a voluntary basis over the coming years. Therefore, the approach taken by the ADA bill to mandate significant and often expensive equipment, services, and structural changes in nearly every business in America is simply wrong headed. Instead of providing incentives, education, and opportunities to encourage greater access. the ADA bill takes a negative approach of imposing vague requirements followed by significant penalties if businesses fail to comply.
Many in the disability community view the ADA bill as a declaration of their independence, just as other minority groups have viewed major civil rights bills in the past. But there exists a fundamental difference between statutes for other groups and the ADA bill – namely, as currently written, access for the disabled comes at the expense of others. Under past civil rights laws. Businesses were required to 'open their doors to the various minority groups. The ADA would do the same for the disabled. However, in addition to opening the doors, businesses will be required to spend their own money to make alterations in those doorways and make other accommodations. These accommodations may include structural modifications along with the installation of
ramps, accessible restrooms and dressing rooms. lower drinking fountains, and the use of auxiliary alds and services. These alterations and purchases of equipment and services are an expense that
business owners alone are expected to pay for.
It is important to keep in mind that U.S. Businesses are currently
facing a full array of social legislation that they, not the public in general, are going to be expected to fund. Added to the potential burdens of upcoming child care. parental leave, and other mandated
benefit legislation, business owners are now going to be forced to foot the bill for an unspecified number of modifications to their businesses
whether or not disabled people ever choose to seek a job or to
patronize a particular business.
Small business owners are particularly concerned with the ADA bill for two primary reasons -- Clarity and cost. The intent of the bill is clear. However, the ambiguous language in the bill and the unknown price
tag conjure up images of a parade of attomeys and lawsuits to the
average small business owner.
Proponents of the bill claim that the language is clear and unambiguous, particularly as a result of changes made first during the
Senate markup and later during Senate floor debate. Without
question, progress has been made. The original version of the bill was
entirely unworkable and unacceptable to anyone with an understanding of how businesses operate on a day-to-day basis.
However, even the Senate-passed version needs further
refinement. NFIB and its members urge that the House take up the Senate-passed version of the ADA bill and add substantive, creathe
modifications to enact a bill that is balanced and fair to all attected people, both the disabled and the business community.
Scope of Coverage Under ADA and Associated Costs
For the first time ever. private businesses that receive no federal funds will be required to make alterations to their facilities to provide access to the disabled. In the past, only federal contractors and programs receiving federal grants were required to comply (under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973). The belief was that those who chose to accept federal money should, in tum, provide access to the disabled as a federally-mandated requirement – in effect a quid pro quo for receiving Federal funds.
This is not the case with the ADA bill. Private businesses will be expected to provide accommodation without the benefit of receiving federal funds to offset those additional costs. Proponents argue that those businesses and programs already covered say that the cost of accommodating the disabled is 'no big deal. They argue that accommodations costing $25. $50. or $100 are not overty burdensome. Unfortunately, this ignores the fact that the accumulated effect of a number of smaller costs can seriously threaten the economic health of a small business.
Contrary to what proponents would like us all to believe, not all the costs are small. The following is a list of prices for