Let Your Voice Be Heard: US Government Requests Public Feedback on Employment & Disabilities

The federal government is serious about making its agencies inclusive — and they need YOUR help! The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, is asking for public feedback on how the government can do a better job hiring and retaining employees with disabilities.

While there are currently standards that indicate when an agency has NOT met the requirements of a “model employer,” there is no clear definition of what makes a “model employer” of people living with disabilities. The concern is that without more guidance, federal agencies will not be meeting their obligation to be that model employer.

This is where you come in. On Thursday, the EEOC issued a notice in the Federal Register asking people to provide their thoughts and feedback to seven questions. These responses will then be used to craft proposed rules to amend regulations related to employment. This is a great opportunity to enact meaningful change — but you need to act quickly. All responses are due by July 14!

Click here to read the full notice. The seven questions are listed below. When you are ready to submit your responses, the notice gives you several options for doing so, including an online submission, fax or snail mail. Be sure to reference the Regulatory Information Number (RIN) 3046-AA94.

Read through the questions below, and let us know what you think in the comments. And don’t forget to let your voice be heard! Submit your responses today. 

EEOC is seeking public comment on the following:

1. What barriers do individuals with disabilities face in the federal recruitment and hiring process? For example, are there specific job qualifications that frequently exclude individuals with disabilities from federal jobs they can perform? What kinds of regulatory requirements, other than the existing requirement not to discriminate based on disability, might effectively address these barriers?

2. Would requiring federal agencies to adopt employment goals for individuals with disabilities help them to become model employers of individuals with disabilities? What are the advantages and disadvantages of requiring federal agencies to adopt employment goals? How and what information should be used to analyze the benefits and costs of such a requirement?

3. If goals are adopted—

a. How should the goals be set? For example:

i. Should an agency’s goal be to have a workforce that reflects the availability of individuals with disabilities in the national labor pool, to increase the number of individuals with disabilities it employs by a certain amount each year, or to have its new hires reflect the availability of qualified individuals with disabilities in the applicant pool? How should the goal(s) account for people with disabilities who are not participating in the labor force, or the extent to which people with disabilities in the labor pool are qualified for agency positions?

ii. Should the regulations give federal agencies the option of either meeting a uniform goal(s) set by EEOC or meeting a goal(s) which they set after considering factors enumerated in the regulations? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach, and what factors are most relevant for establishing goals?

iii. Would information about the number of federal employees who have self-identified as individuals with disabilities on the Standard Form 256 (SF 256) [14] and in the most recent Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey [15] be helpful in establishing goals for the employment of people with disabilities? The Commission has recently added questions about disability to the form used by federal agencies to collect demographic information on job applicants. [16]Could data collected using that form, as revised, be used to set goals? What are the advantages and disadvantages of relying on these data? What other data are available?

iv. Should the goal(s) be applied to specified job categories, GS, or SES levels, or applied across federal agencies’ workforces?

b. Which types of disabilities should count toward fulfillment of the goal(s), and why? For example, should there be separate goals for individuals with disabilities as defined by the Rehabilitation Act and individuals with the most significant disabilities (known in federal employment as “targeted disabilities”)?

c. What should an agency do to determine whether the goals have been met? For example, should it rely solely on voluntary self-disclosure through SF 256 and the form used by federal agencies to collect demographic information on job applicants? Or should it also, for example, consider individuals who have requested reasonable accommodation or entered the workforce through the Schedule A excepted hiring authority for “persons with intellectual disabilities, severe physical disabilities, or psychiatric disabilities”? [17]

d. Should there be consequences for federal agencies that fail to meet the goals? If so, what should they be?

4. Are there specific hiring policies and practices other than, or in addition to, establishing goals that should be part of the regulation for being a model employer of individuals with disabilities? For example, should the proposed model employer regulation require agencies to work with entities specializing in the placement of individuals with disabilities, such as state vocational rehabilitation agencies or the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs; to interview all qualified job applicants with disabilities; to assign additional “points” to qualified applicants with disabilities; to subject their qualification standards (including safety requirements) to internal or external review to identify unnecessary barriers to people with disabilities; to include certain information about affirmative action for individuals with disabilities in their job advertisements; to observe certain guidelines for determining the essential functions of the job; or to engage in additional, targeted outreach? Commenters suggesting that specific policies or practices be included in the proposed regulation are encouraged to include information about the benefits and costs of the suggested policy or practice.

5. Are there any policies or practices related to retention, inclusion, and advancement of federal employees with disabilities, other than policies and practices that are already required by EEOC regulations, that a federal agency should be required to adopt to become a model employer of individuals with disabilities? For example, should the proposed model employer regulation require agencies to have reasonable accommodation procedures meeting certain standards, or to take certain remedial actions if they fail to achieve roughly equal average levels of compensation for employees with and without disabilities? Are there particular policies related to travel, technology, or security measures that could eliminate systemic barriers to federal employment of people with disabilities? Should agencies be required to gather feedback regarding their efforts to retain, include, and advance employees with disabilities on an ongoing basis, for example by convening roundtables with managers or conducting exit interviews with individuals with disabilities when they leave the agency? Please be as specific as possible about what the proposed new regulation should require. You are encouraged to provide information about the benefits and costs of the suggested policy or practice.

6. Are there any policies or practices related to reasonable accommodation, other than policies and practices that are already required by EEOC regulations, that federal agencies should be required to adopt to become model employers of individuals with disabilities? For example, should the proposed model employer regulation require agencies to establish certain time limits for the provision of accommodations; observe certain limitations on the collection of medical information during the interactive process; or adopt certain methods of funding, or budgeting for, reasonable accommodations, such as a centralized funding mechanism that would avoid charging individual program budgets for the cost of accommodations, or a centralized contracting vehicle or contract authority to streamline the accommodation process? Again, please be as specific as possible about what sorts of policies or practices the proposed new regulation should require. You are encouraged to provide information about the benefits and costs of the suggested policy or practice.

7. What requirements, other than those discussed above and the existing requirement not to discriminate based on disability, should be included in the proposed regulation to better clarify what it means to be a model employer of individuals with disabilities?

The Commission encourages any interested party to comment on one or more of these questions, and to provide any other relevant information, including information about the benefits and costs of suggested policies, practices, or general approaches.

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