American Bar Association Report On Disabilities Criticized

February 23, 1999

The American Bar Association's Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law recently analyzed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Critics say that while the data it generated was helpful, the conclusions it reached were way off the mark.

The group found that employers are winning an overwhelming number of court cases and administrative complaints. So it concluded that the ADA was no threat to them. What the lawyers forgot to factor in was the impact of legal fees, observers noted.

  • Since the ADA took effect for private employers in 1992, they have won 92 percent of court cases and 86 percent of administrative challenges.
  • Not only do firms have to pay lawyers at every step of the lengthy legal process, they must foot the bills of the plaintiffs if they lose.
  • Analysts note that courts and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission haven't interpreted the law as broadly as plaintiffs and their lawyers had anticipated.
  • Experts say the statute is broadly, vaguely and poorly written -- and one of its congressional sponsors, former Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.) agrees, saying that the law was "deliberately written vaguely."

It has been suggested that disabilities lawyers and their clients continue to invoke the ADA in the face of numerous failures because the law contains generous damages and attorneys' fees provisions.

Source: Roger Clegg (Center for Equal Opportunity), "Good Data, Bad Analysis on Disabilities Act," Investor's Business Daily, February 23, 1999.

 

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