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BRIEFCASE

Small And Minority Business

March 30, 1994|Susan Christian, Times staff writer

Workers With Disabilities: Since it was enacted by Congress in 1991, the Americans with Disabilities Act has applied to companies with 25 or more employees. But on July 1, it will extend its protection of disabled workers to even smaller businesses--those with at least 15 employees.

The Orange County Chamber of Commerce & Industry on Tuesday sponsored a workshop to educate companies, large and small, about the federal law.

Speakers included Patrick Matarazzo, area director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and Vivian Regalado-Gaffney, program director of the Easter Seal Society of Southern California.

"The Disabilities Act says that an employer can't discriminate on the basis of a person's physical or mental disabilities in hiring or compensation if the person is qualified for the requirements of the job," said Tony Burnham, chairman of the human resources committee for the chamber.

Though the law forbids discrimination, it does not force employers to hire disabled people, said Burnham, president of the Costa Mesa-based ProActive Institute, which trains laid-off people to re-enter the work force. "It merely says that all qualified job applicants should be considered equally," he said.

At the workshop, speakers discussed the advantages of hiring people with disabilities. "Many people with handicaps have been underutilized in the past, so they see employment as a privilege rather than as an entitlement," Burnham said. "Statistics show that people with disabilities have good attendance records, are more productive and have a higher level of loyalty than the average employee."

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