ADA Insights includes a media kit to provide journalists key information in one location.

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Press Releases:

Funding for Americans with Disabilities Act enforcement inadequate to do job, study shows - December 17, 2001:

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Media Coverage:

1. Ragged Edge Magazine - December 2001 :

2. Associated Press Online- August 2, 2001:

3. Daily Labor Report - August 6, 2001:

4. New York Times - August 2, 2001:

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Overview: Enforcing Title I of the ADA: An Unfunded Mandate:

It has been more than 12 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted. When it was passed, few people could anticipate how it would affect individuals with disabilities. Would they actually make use of the law? And if they did, would it actually help them?

Since 1995, Dr. Kathryn Moss' research group, based at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been conducting research on administrative complaints and lawsuits filed under the employment discrimination mandates of the ADA. These studies comprise the most comprehensive analysis of the ADA employment discrimination enforcement process available today. Dr. Moss' group is just starting to analyze the ADA lawsuit data. It has, however, published numerous findings on the administrative complaint process. The administrative complaint data were obtained from the computerized database of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the EEOC is responsible for enforcing the ADA's employment discrimination requirements), EEOC investigative files, interviews conducted with EEOC personnel, and EEOC budgets and other documents.

The study's findings show that:

Many people with disabilities have filed employment discrimination administrative charges under the ADA. People with disabilities who believe they have experienced employment discrimination and wish to file a charge under the ADA can file an administrative charge of employment discrimination with the EEOC or a state or local Fair Employment Practice Agency. After filing an administrative charge they can wait for an administrative investigation or go to court. Between July 26, 1992 (the date the ADA's employment discrimination requirements took effect) and September 30, 2000, 233,469 ADA charges were filed and closed.

The EEOC has never had enough resources to appropriately investigate each complaint that comes before it. Passage of the ADA only made the problem worse. With the enactment of the ADA, the EEOC experienced a huge increase in yearly charge receipts: from 59,426 in 1990 to a peak of 91,189 in 1994. Charge receipt levels have declined somewhat in the past few years, but still hover around 80,000 per year. Notwithstanding the EEOC's enormous workload, it has received only one substantial budget increase - a 15% increase in fiscal year 1999 - since the ADA was passed. Even with this needed increase, the budget is still inadequate to keep up with the increased workload.

The EEOC took decisive action in the mid-1990s to reform its charge processing procedures through prioritizing cases and by developing a mediation program. As a result, it has made commendable progress in many areas. The agency reduced the median length of time taken to process ADA charges (from 445 days in 1994 to 128 days in 2000), decreased the inventory of ADA charges awaiting resolution (from over 23,000 in 1995 to less than 7,000 in 2000), increased its rate of "reasonable cause" determinations (from 1.5% in 1995 to 11% in 2000), and developed what has become a very large mediation program (3,277 mediations of ADA cases between January 1, 1999 and September 30, 2000).

At the same time, a relatively small percentage of charges filed with the EEOC results in benefits for ADA claimants. Between July 26, 1992 and September 30, 2000, only 12.4% of all ADA complaints filed with the EEOC resulted in benefits for claimants. It is perfectly possibly that this 12.4% figure represents the actual number of meritorious charges. We think not, however, for several reasons.

The first reason relates to the EEOC's charge priority system. Because the EEOC has never had enough resources to appropriately investigate each complaint that comes before it, it has always had, to varying degrees, a large backlog of uninvestigated charges. In an attempt to decrease the backlog, it started prioritizing charges in 1995. Under the agency's current system of charge processing, each person bringing a charge is interviewed initially by an EEOC staff member. On the basis of information provided during the interview and the claimant's perceived credibility, the staff member categorizes each claim. "A" is the highest priority categorization, "B" the middle, and "C" the lowest. That initial categorization effectively determines the extent to which the case will be investigated. The vast majority of cases categorized as "B" and "C," and even some "A" cases, receive minimal investigative attention and their outcomes generally favor employers. Thus, unless each complaining party is able to convincingly explain the merits of his or her case and persuade the investigator that there is reasonable cause to believe that disability-based employment discrimination occurred, the case is apt to be given a "B" or "C" priority and receive a minimal investigation and an outcome favoring the employer. An articulate and convincing presentation, regardless of actual merit, is probably difficult or impossible for many claimants, particularly those with a cognitive or psychiatric disability.

The second reason we think that the 12.4% benefit rate does not reflect the actual number of meritorious cases is that categorization and outcome rates differ considerably from office to office, far more than the likely variance in the distribution of meritorious cases. Since the time the EEOC began prioritizing cases in 1995 through September 30, 2000, rates of "A" prioritization ranged from 5% to 37% among the EEOC's 50 offices. From July 26, 1992 through September 30, 2000, benefit rates for claimants ranged from 9% to 17%.

The third reason we think that the 12.4% benefit rate does not reflect the actual number of meritorious cases is that categorization and outcomes also vary by type of disability. Among the charges that had been closed as of September 30, 2000, average rates of "A" categorization ranged from 12% to 54% among different disability groupings. During the time period of July 26, 1992 through September 30, 2000, benefit rates ranged from 9% to 17%. During the same time period, complaints involving persons with mental retardation had the highest overall benefit rate (17%). Other disabilities showing high benefit rates included HIV (17%), kidney impairments (16%), hearing impairments (16%), cancer (16%), and vision impairments (15%). Cases involving people with psychiatric disabilities had particularly low benefit rates, especially people with schizophrenia (9%), depression (9%), and drug addition (9%).

The data also suggest that the EEOC's mediation program has been successful in getting opposing parties to reach settlements. However, employers are reluctant to participate in mediation with ADA complainants. Specifically, during the time period of January 1, 99 and June 30, 2000, only 39% of employers agreed to participate in mediation, compared with 90% of complainants. Also, the dollar amount of settlements received by ADA charging parties from the regular administrative charge process tends to be higher. Of all mediations of ADA cases, 62% resulted in settlements. However, the median monetary award for mediated ADA cases was $4,883, compared to $7,000 for the regular charge process.

The EEOC contracts with state and local Fair Employment Practice Agencies (FEPAs) to help it process complaints and is responsible for monitoring FEPAs' complaint processing. As with the EEOC, there is great variation among different FEPAs with respect to the achieving of beneficial outcomes for complainants. While the EEOC handles the majority of ADA employment discrimination complaints, an additional 84,346 complaints were filed with, and closed by, FEPAs as of September 30, 2000. During this time, average benefit rates among the various FEPAs ranged from 0% to 100%.

There is also great deal of variation among EEOC offices and among different FEPAs in the nature and the dollar amounts awarded in settlements. In general, however, the dollar amount of settlements is considerably higher for EEOC settlements than for FEPA settlements. During the time period of July 26, 1992 through September 30, 2000, the median monetary award for EEOC cases resulting in settlements was $6,000, compared to $2,500 for FEPA cases resulting in settlements.

In summary, our findings suggest that the EEOC has not had the resources to adequately investigate cases and therefore it concentrates on only the most obvious cases of discrimination. It has been unable to investigate every complaint, even in a preliminary way, and has been forced to make categorization judgments based only on a one-time meeting with the aggrieved claimant. It also has been unable to adequately monitor FEPAs. Thus, although the reforms undertaken by the EEOC in the mid 1990s have reduced the backlog of cases, the inadequacies of these reforms are reflected in inequities in the awarding of benefits among the various EEOC offices and FEPAs.

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Fact Sheet: The Research Group:

For more information, please read the About Us section.

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Fact Sheet: ADA Title I Enforcement:

Under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals who believe they have been subjected to disability-based discrimination in employment may file an administrative complaint. Individuals may also file a Title I lawsuit but first they must file the administrative complaint. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has responsibility for the Title I administrative complaint process.

Data for the Research:

We have used five types of data and are currently analyzing the more recently acquired data::

  1. We use data from the EEOC's computerized Charge Data System. We have recently obtained updated data. They now consist of all Title I administrative complaints filed between July 26, 1992 (the date Title I took effect) and November 14, 2002.
  2. We reviewed 782 investigative files during site visits to 10 EEOC field offices conducted during 1998 and 1999.
  3. We conducted interviews with 50 EEOC personnel during the 10 site visits.
  4. We examined EEOC annual budgets and local enforcement plans written by EEOC field offices.
  5. We conducted interviews with 6 EEOC central office personnel.
  6. Recently, we reviewed judicial files and docket sheets about 4393 Title I lawsuits. We are currently analyzing these data.
  7. We conducted telephone interviews with 535 individuals who have filed Title I lawsuits. We are currently analyzing the interview data.

Findings: Administrative Complaints

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Fact Sheet: Mediation:

The EEOC's mediation program is an alternative to more formal, adversarial dispute resolution approaches. During mediation, disputants meet together with a neutral third party to discuss their differences and develop their own solutions. The mediator has no decision-making authority. Rather, his or her job is to assist disputing parties develop options for a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute.

The EEOC's mediation program is designed to focus on "B" cases. Indeed, as of September 30, 2000, 72% of "B" cases were referred to mediation. However, 32% of "A" cases and 11.2% percent of "C" cases were also referred to mediation as of September 30, 2000.

When asked to participate in mediation, only 38.5% of employers agreed to do so, compared to 89.5% of complainants. Consequently, only 26.9% of mediation referrals resulted in scheduled mediations. Mediated charges that do not result in settlements are termed "mediation failures" and returned to the EEOC's regular pool of charges for investigation.

Between January 1, 1999 and June 30, 2000, 3,277 Title I cases underwent mediation. Of these, 62.2% (n=2,039) were settled, while 37.8% (n=1,238) did not settle. While the settlement rate of cases that are mediated is a great deal higher than the settlement rate of cases that go through the regular complaint process, the dollar amount of settlements received from the regular administrative process is higher than for mediated cases. The median monetary award for mediated cases was $4,880, compared to $7,000 for cases resulting in settlements as a result of the regular administrative charge process.

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