Increasing Social Equity and Diversity in the Workplace: New Disability Affirmative Action Requirements for Federal Contractors
Friday, November 13, 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Stanford (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Linda Toms Barker, IMPAQ International
Panel Chairs: Linda Toms Barker, IMPAQ International
Discussants: Cherise Hunter, U.S. Department of Labor
The new regulations of Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act represent a major milestone in the ongoing efforts to improve employment opportunities and outcomes for individuals with disabilities (IWD). In particular, the seven percent utilization goal, and the requirement to document IWD application and hiring rates could be catalysts for employer awareness of and focus on the underutilized talent pool of IWD. Success of this policy depends on sensitizing employers and workforce development professionals. It also depends on IWD “disclosing.”
Disclosing a disability is complicated. From the individual’s perspective, doing so can be fraught with implications. Common questions include: What does it mean if I disclose my disability? Will people think differently about me? How will disclosure affect my chances of getting a job or being promoted? As prospective and existing employees of federal contractors begin to see the OFCCP “Voluntary Self Identification” form, more basic questions of “What is a disability?” and “Do I have one?” will also arise. In this paper, we examine various junctures at which individuals might be presented with an opportunity to disclose a) whether they have/have had a disability, and b) the type of disability. These junctures include entering the workforce system, applying for employment, obtaining employment, and during employment.
Whether and how opportunities to disclose are presented at these various junctures varies widely at present. If an individual’s employment journey starts in a postsecondary education setting, then he or she may need to be proactive in locating and making use of a student supports on campus, which may or may not offer any guidance in terms of what a disability (and disclosure of it) means in the realm of employment. If the employment journey begins with services through a vocational rehabilitation agency, staff may be able to provide guidance and a full discussion of the pros and cons of disclosing disability information at various stages during the employment process, and advice about requesting reasonable accommodations on the job.
If an employment journey begins at an American Job Center (AJC), there are several U. S. Department of Labor initiatives that could bolster the chances that an individual (any AJC customer) will be asked about any disabilities, and advised accordingly. These include the Disability Employment Initiative, the Add Us In Initiative and workforce system participation in SSA’s Ticket to Work program, with opportunities to disclose disability verbally by AJC staff, encouraged through signage or part of a standard registration form. Some AJC case managers may be able to counsel on discussing one’s disability with employers. Conversely, in many AJCs, individuals will neither see nor hear the word disability –or worse—will hear it only in voices hushed by outdated stereotypes and stigma.
This paper will discuss how thoughtful implementation and support of the Section 503 new regulations has the potential to substantially change the pre-employment experience of individuals with disabilities. More importantly, we will describe the potential link between the new regulations and improved employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.