EEOC, experts offer guidance on reaching disability hiring goals

A rule passed in January raised the bar for disability hiring. Now agencies are trying to figure out how to reach that goal.

During an April 19 Twitter chat, experts from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and the Employer Assistance and Resource Network discussed problems and solutions in implementing a rule regarding the hiring of people with disabilities.

The rule codifies executive orders and management directives related to Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, which blocks agencies from discriminating against people with disabilities, and requires agencies to maintain and continually update affirmative action plans to ensure the federal government is hiring and promoting individuals with disabilities.

The final rule requires agencies to boost the number of their employees who have a disability and employees who have a “targeted disability” — such as deafness — and provide personal assistance services to employees who need it.

EARN kicked things off by asking feds what roadblocks they’ve experienced in trying to increase disability hiring.

Schedule A is a hiring authority that allows agencies to offer preference to individuals with disabilities.

The rule calls for agencies to adopt the goal of having 12 percent of their GS-levels represented by people with disabilities and 2 percent comprised of people with targeted disabilities.

The SF-256 is an optional form that prospective or current employees can choose to fill out, self-identifying as disabled. The Office of Personnel Management uses these forms to compile its disability hiring statistics.

But encouraging employees to self-identify as having a disability can be a point of concern with agencies. Toward that end, EEOC and OPM will be conducting a survey in July, and offered assurances that the information self-identification will be kept confidential.

Agencies and experts also offered a number of different ways agencies can and, in some cases, have already begun to increase recruitment and hiring of people with disabilities.

Agencies can also use existing authorities and programs to recruit and hire students with disabilities.

Chai Feldblum, the commissioner of the EEOC, also said agencies should:

  • use the Schedule A hiring authority.
  • use the Labor Department’s Workforce Recruitment Program.
  • use OPM’s Shared List for people with disabilities
  • share job vacancies with disability organizations so people with disabilities are aware of and have the opportunity to apply for positions.
  • have sufficient staff to answer disability-related questions.
  • have a reasonable accommodation system for applicants and employees.
  • provide advancement opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • maintain strong enforcement against disability-based discrimination.

Another suggestion is that agencies could create a fund to help pay for the required personal assistance services.

The agency said no specific quotas on disability hiring will be imposed, but EEOC and OPM will be looking for “good faith” efforts to achieve agency goals.

EEOC said it would be updating reporting requirements to match the final rule, and that the regulation becomes effective Jan. 3, 2018.