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New Federal Rule Aims To Boost Disability Employment

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The Obama administration is pressing forward with a plan to urge companies doing business with the federal government to dramatically increase the number of employees with disabilities in their ranks.

Under a final rule announced Tuesday, most federal contractors will be expected to ensure that people with disabilities account for at least 7 percent of workers within each job group at their companies. If businesses meet that threshold, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that it could mean as many as 585,000 jobs for people with disabilities within the first year.

“The need is clear,” said Patricia Shiu, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, calling the unemployment rate for people with disabilities “unacceptably high.”

The new rule would not establish a quota, but rather a goal that contractors would be expected to work toward. Firms with at least 50 employees and $50,000 in federal commitments would have to take specific steps with regard to recruitment, training, record keeping and policy dissemination — much like they are already required to do to encourage workplace equality for women and members of minority groups — in order to increase their employment of people with disabilities.

Previously, federal law merely required that contractors make a “good faith” effort to employ those with disabilities.

“It’s time for a new approach — the same approach that business uses,” Shiu said. “What gets measured gets done.”

Contractors that fail to achieve the 7 percent goal would need to reevaluate their practices. If companies can’t provide documentation showing that they worked to meet the goal they could lose their federal contracts, Shiu said.

Many businesses had opposed the plan — which was initially proposed in 2011 — and now the HR Policy Association, which represents chief human resource officers at more than 350 major employers, says they are mulling legal action over the rule.

“Simply mandating a numerical ‘goal’ for all jobs in all contractors’ workplaces and then requiring employers to invade the privacy of applicants and employees with questions about their physical and mental condition destroys everything companies have done to integrate individuals with disabilities into the workforce in a sensitive, discreet manner,” said Daniel V. Yager, the organization’s president and general counsel.

Advocates within the disability community, however, hailed the new rule as a milestone.

“The harsh reality is that nearly eight in 10 working-age Americans with disabilities are unemployed,” said Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability. “I’m encouraged by the notion that the work of recruiting this largely untapped talent pool on a larger scale can truly begin, and I think that American industry can benefit from the considerable talents that people with disabilities possess.”

The new requirements are expected to be published in the Federal Register within the next 10 days and will take effect six months after that, officials at the Labor Department indicated.

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Comments (4 Responses)

  1. Whitney says:

    It is about time. A step in right direction. If social you can get ahead it does not matter if you are competent or have job skills.

  2. Verlene says:

    Finally! Many businesses aren’t going to do enough without being pushed. Thank you for giving, at least some of them, a push!

  3. Mario says:

    And what if companies don’t do this? A fine?

    Makes me think if some companies rather do an assessment how much a fine will be and how much loss they make to hire someone who is not committed to being a equally productive member. And settle with the most lucrative deal. Add in that to create these jobs, other people are probably being let go, since I find it hard to believe that a new law actually creates new jobs. And if they can, why couldn’t they before this act with anyone who was unemployed? Like actual healthy people with degrees.

    Yes, it sounds an awful lot like I’m looking down towards disabled people… but I’m amongst the demographic actually. Aside from the fact that I’m not from the US. Though my country (The Netherlands) is implementing roughly the same concept and companies are already stumbling upon issues. Companies already said “we can’t create new jobs”

    I’ve went through these ideas with people who actually have a bit of knowledge about employment and recruiting. And a lot comes down to finances. A lot of accomodation is becoming so utterly expensive there’s no end to it. And let’s face it, a lot of people need accomodation, otherwise one can question if there’s an actual disability at hand.

    An overlooked issue clearly is that cheap and uneducated labor often is physical labor. I don’t really know how to make, say… assembly line work less physical. Aside from it being less sensory heavy to some groups. No, not everyone with a disability of sorts has no education at all. But looking at people primarily with mental disorders (ranging from Autism, PDD-NOS, Bipolar and so on) there is a significant group who didn’t get adequate support in college even.

    It would have to be looked into on a case to case basis. Companies might not even be able to afford this support, since I’m well aware that a large part of this demographic can’t settle with the “regular” deal everyone gets.

    The thing I’ll see happening here is that the unemployment pool will increase and people will be put off disability income and just seen as someone lazy on social welfare, all while this might not be true. There are bigger obstacles for many of these people than just leave the house and apply for a job.

    And don’t even get me started on workplace bullying, since you’ll end up being “one of those who has to get hired”.

    I do however hope it works out for all out there looking for a job

  4. Whitney says:

    Mario

    It is not about creating jobs it about current jobs these companies are fishing for employees. I mean there a need for techies and people with Autism can do these jobs but getting hired because they cannot maintain eye contact. There is not enough people who have skills to do these jobs in non-disabled meet the need of tech firms. People here who have autism cannot have the social skills compare non disabled because HR is hiring people who can maintain eye contact. The jobs are there and do exist but there perception that hiring people disabled are going cost a company money all the time. Which is not always true. If a person who high functioning does not always fit the same critiria as intellectual challenge but we are social cues challenge. So if the job fits our talent and so we get the jobs. HR is relying on how social skills but not quality of workers. If accomadations like headphones to block out noises or even florescent lights simple stuff replacing items that can help or harm. I see reasonable accomadations that person can use and cost company small amount of money but not where cause structural changes but superficial like different chairs and stuff that is low cost.

    Like for jobs the companies are advertising for like computer careers do exist but creating a job out of thin air for government requirements. The pressure on business is from the Health Care in the United states the HMOS are more interested workers at low cost. Business pays half of medical care and insurance and this where medicine put squeeze on companies. HMO pressures the companies hire cheap and non disabled workers even though they are qualified to do the jobs.

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