Employers Pay the Human Cost of ADA Noncompliance in US

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The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is hardly news by now; those working jobs in compliance have long been engaged in ensuring that their employers adhere to the regulations laid out in this act. However, as those already in compliance careers or about to pursue compliance employment are well aware, not every company manages to implement these regulations equally well. The law is relatively broad, stipulating that businesses make reasonable accommodations - though many fail even to do this.

For those businesses which fail to ensure their compliance with this law, there is a very real cost to be paid even if they are never sued or fined over the issue: there is a significant cost in terms of failing to attract or retain talented employees who happen to have disabilities. The financial losses incurred through legal action are massive, to be sure - but the cost of compliance is far lower than many business owners may suppose.

Simple Accommodations

Many disabilities can be accommodated on the job through some relatively simple, low cost adaptations to the work environment. For example, an employee who uses a wheelchair may require no more than a desk which is set at a different height in order to perform their job. An employee who is hearing impaired can use instant messaging software and e-mail rather than using an intra-office phone system. Their employer can invest in, inexpensive equipment to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act by installing visual smoke alarms and making other small adjustments.

These are the kinds of creative solutions which it is incumbent on those in compliance careers to implement to save the businesses which employ them both the financial cost of ADA non-compliance and the human cost of being unable to employ competent employees. Success in compliance employment is largely dependent on being able to effectively make the reasonable accommodations mandated by the ADA while keeping costs reasonable.

Talented Employees Are the Biggest Loss

Those working in jobs in compliance know that the best approach is to match prospective hires with disabilities to the right position within the firm. Many corporate compliance officers report that it is basically a matter of common sense, along with making such adjustments to the work environment as are deemed necessary to allow these employees to perform their duties. In some cases, this means arranging a flexible schedule, telecommuting or specialized office furniture - and in every case, these accommodations are far less costly to employers than is noncompliance or the loss of a skilled employee.

Generally speaking, the work of those in compliance careers is largely the exercise of common sense, with most of their duties requiring them to do what the majority of employers would be willing to (and in fact, often already) do. The cost of hiring and training a new employee, especially one who may not be as productive as a prospective hire, who happens to be disabled is much higher than the cost of making what in almost all cases turns out to be a very minimal change in order to maintain ADA compliance.
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