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Meeting of July 18, 2012 – Public Input into the Development of EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan

Written Testimony of Akinyemi Banjo
Federal Disability Workforce Consortium

Honorable Chair, the Commissioners, General Counsel, Legal Counsel and invited guests; thank you for inviting me to share my perspectives with you today. The Federal Disability Workforce Consortium (FDWC) is an interagency organization made up of Federal employees with a shared interest to improve the employment, retention and advancement of people with disabilities in the Federal Government. It included disability program managers, reasonable accommodation coordinators, Section 508 coordinators, Selective Placement Coordinators, and others interested in promoting the employment of people with disabilities in the federal sector.

Since 2005 the FDWC has offered a variety of learning sessions on disability employment related topics, held town hall meetings with appointed leaders to bring Federal disability employment issues to the forefront, provided inputs on GAO studies and it continues to provide avenues for sharing best practices and networking among its over 500 members. Recently, it adopted the use of an online community of practice, designed to advance Federal employment for people with disabilities.

Whereas, the Federal government as the largest employer of labor is expected to be a model employer and setting bench mark for others to follow; it is quite disappointing that despite several tools and resources at its disposal, the employment for people with disability remains nothing to write home about. Currently, employees with targeted disabilities made up less than 1 percent of the federal workforce and the chief among the reasons for this is discrimination and prohibited employment practices.

Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Management Directive 715 (MD-715) require each federal agency to establish an affirmative action program plan for the hiring, placement, and advancement of individuals with disabilities. The plan must provide sufficient assurances, procedures, and demonstrated commitment by agency leadership (agency heads and other senior management officials). MD-715 requires that agency heads issue a written policy statement expressing their commitment to equal employment opportunity and a workplace free of discrimination and harassment. This statement should be issued at the beginning of the agency head’s tenure and thereafter on an annual basis and disseminated to all employees. In addition, agency heads and other senior management officials may, at their discretion, issue similar statements when important issues related to equal employment opportunity arise within their agency or when important developments in the law occur. Despite all these provisions, federal EEO programs continue to fall short in many areas including but not limited to:

  • failures to engage in interactive process and or untimely fulfillment/denial of reasonable accommodation requests;
  • failures to establish and administer a clear and fair employee complaint process;
  • failures of agencies to include EEO performance elements in managers’ performance measures;
  • failures to hold managers accountable for proven discrimination;
  • failures of agencies to implement recommendations set forth in MD 715 reports;
  • violations of employees' rights and abusive behavior by managers/hostile work environment including forcing employees with disabilities into taking disability retirements.

There are a number of proactive measures that the Commission can take in addition to enforcement to enhance federal sector programs. EEOC can assist agencies to develop a holistic approach to EEO program and program implementation as well as a comprehensive strategy to EEO programs barrier identification and elimination plans. These may include ensuring that agencies:

  • include an EEO performance element in the performance standards of mangers and supervisors;
  • review policy and EEO performance elements within one month of an individual gaining supervisory status;
  • include EEO training module as part of agency overall new employee training and onboarding;
  • designate a point person who is responsible for making all decisions regarding reasonable accommodation so that such decisions are not in the hands of employee supervisors;
  • hold quarterly roundtable discussions with all managers and supervisors to examine practices that frequently give rise to complaints and do the same with employees using employee organizations/resource groups as vehicles to identify barriers and to develop/implement corrective action plans;
  • use employee newsletter to showcase, provide a description and promote each aspect of agency EEO program;
  • provides monthly reports on the status of the agency’s workforce profile and hiring efforts during executive staff meetings;
  • EEO officials meet regularly with agency leadership to relay progress of work performed under MD-715;
  • EEO officials meet regularly with counterparts from agencies of a similar size to share ideas and resources;
  • create cross-functional teams to work on the various problems identified;
  • set a goal for hiring persons with targeted disabilities that exceeds the expected separations so that progress is actually made.

The commission should increase its oversight of federal sector programs by conducting regular audit and on-site quality assurance reviews; technical assistance and training of managers and first line supervisors on civil right laws and the interplay between the ADA, FMLA, and Worker Comp (FICA) program especially in relation to leave as a reasonable accommodation; probe agencies use of 100% healed or fully healed policies; hold agencies accountable for their MD-715 report and use the various data collected from agencies to develop an integrated data system that can identify potentially discriminatory policies or practices in the federal agencies and help set priorities for the prevention of discrimination.

In my position as a co-lead of the FDWC, I often receive calls or email from employees facing discriminatory situations. Many times these individuals do not understand their agencies complain process and even when they do, they are often hesitant to initiate for fear of reprisal.

Madam Chair, I commend the Commission’s efforts to solicit input from a wide variety of stakeholders in formulating its Strategic Enforcement Plan and my organization and I look forward to working with you to provide a sounding board, vehicle for dissemination and galvanizing stakeholders.