Commission Meeting on the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities in the Federal Government - June 28, 2006
Good morning, Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair and Commissioners. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to discuss the Federal Government’s initiatives in the area of the employment of individuals with disabilities.
My name is Carlton Hadden, and I have the privilege of serving as the Director of EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations. The EEOC has charged the Office of Federal Operations with two major responsibilities. One is the drafting of decisions on appeals filed by federal employees regarding determinations on their EEO complaints. The second is overseeing the efforts of all Executive Branch agencies to establish and promote workplace policies and practices that foster an inclusive work culture and operate proactively to prevent employment discrimination.
While there are many facets to our oversight work, we have a long-standing, unwavering commitment to ensuring that individuals with disabilities receive equal opportunity in all aspects of federal employment. Non-discrimination is not enough – the Rehabilitation Act requires that federal agencies take proactive steps to ensure equal employment opportunity for individuals with disabilities.
Part of ensuring equal employment opportunity for individuals with disabilities includes ensuring that the Federal Government has the necessary infrastructure to provide any reasonable accommodations that may be needed. Under Executive Order 13164, agencies are required to establish effective written procedures for processing reasonable accommodation requests.
These procedures are submitted to the EEOC for review. Although each agency’s procedures are designed to meet specific organizational needs, through our feedback, we are able to help agencies adopt procedures that provide employees and managers with an easy-to-understand, step-by-step explanation of the reasonable accommodation process. To date, the EEOC has reviewed and provided feedback on 123 initial submissions of procedures by agencies. In 86 instances, the agencies revised their procedures and resubmitted them for further review and feedback.
Well-written procedures and guidance help dispel the myth that individuals with disabilities who need accommodations are less competent or less productive than those without disabilities. A 2003 Work Trends study conducted by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found that one-third of the over 500 employers surveyed said that they believed that people with disabilities would not be able to effectively perform required job duties.1
Another 20% of the employers surveyed reported that the greatest barriers to the hiring of persons with disabilities were employer discomfort regarding persons with disabilities or concerns over the potential cost of accommodations. However, many common accommodations – such as modified schedules, telecommuting and job restructuring – cost little or no money.
Indeed, a report issued by the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) in March of this year found that, of the 890 employers surveyed, 50.5% said that they accommodated employees without incurring any costs.2 Another 42% reported that they were able to accommodate an employee for a one-time median cost of $600.
I am pleased to see that Dinah Cohen, the Director of the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) is also speaking today. Through CAP, the US Department of Defense has made assistive technology and services available at no cost not only to DoD employees, but to employees of other federal agencies as well.
Thousands of federal employees have been able to realize their full potential due to CAP’s comprehensive and always up-to-date technology. In recognition of CAP’s accomplishments – including the filling of more than 50,000 requests for accommodations, this year, it became the first federal agency program to be honored with the presentation of EEOC’s Freedom to Compete award.
Under Management Directive 715, agencies annually report their efforts to implement Model EEO Programs, to identify and eliminate barriers to equal opportunity in the workplace, and to implement special program plans for the recruitment, hiring and advancement of individuals with targeted disabilities. Pursuant to the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act,3 MD-715 requires federal agencies with 1,000 or more employees to maintain a special recruitment program for individuals with targeted disabilities and to establish specific goals for the employment and advancement of such individuals.4
Federal agencies are required to establish specific goals for individuals with targeted disabilities because the EEOC has for many years particularly concentrated on the Federal Government’s results in employing individuals with targeted disabilities. The disabilities targeted for special attention and monitoring include deafness, blindness, missing extremities, partial or complete paralysis, seizure disorders, distortion of limbs or spine, mental illness and severe intellectual impairments.
Since 1979, the EEOC has paid particular attention to the progress of individuals with targeted disabilities because these individuals tend to have more severe disabilities that are immediately apparent to potential employers and which the employers are likely to believe will require accommodation. Accordingly, individuals with targeted disabilities serve as the harbingers for the success or failure of the Federal Government’s efforts with respect to all individuals with disabilities.
Maintaining a ‘bottom line’ focus on the employment of individuals with targeted disabilities enables the EEOC to best serve the goal of ensuring that improved representation rates are the first and most fundamental criterion for judging the success of federal agencies.5
However, despite White House initiatives and the efforts of federal agencies that administer programs designed with the goal of making the Federal Government the employer of first choice for individuals with disabilities, there has been no appreciable improvement in the Federal Government’s employment record. Instead, the percentage of permanent Federal employees with targeted disabilities reached its peak of 1.24% in Fiscal Year 1994, with a total of 32,337 permanent employees, and the percentage has declined in each year since then, falling to only 0.96% in Fiscal Year 2005, with a total of 24,086 permanent employees with targeted disabilities.
To begin to understand the reasons behind this decline in participation rates for individuals with targeted disabilities, I challenged staff in the Office of Federal Operations to examine this issue with the goal of identifying solutions, leading practices. The result was that we established a strategic, cross-functional team within the Office of Federal Operations to examine the data and provide recommendations that may improve employment opportunities for individuals with targeted disabilities. The work of that team, called Project REDI (Retention and Employment of Disabled Individuals), will continue.
In addition to the work of Project REDI, our goal is to issue a report to identify how agencies may improve the participation rate of people with targeted disabilities in the federal work force.
As federal agencies strive to become model employers of individuals with disabilities, some of the impediments which agencies should address include:
Also, in response to the growing body of research addressing the potential uses and misuses of genetic information, EEOC’s Honors Program attorneys in OFO were tasked with examining the topic of genetic discrimination in the workplace, and how to combat its potential and actual misuse under the existing legal framework. Executive Order 13145 prohibits discrimination in federal employment based on genetic information. Accordingly, we intend to take steps to ensure that agency heads and EEO Directors are aware of this policy, and train EEO staff members to recognize genetic discrimination claims brought under the Rehabilitation Act and/or Title VII.
Under MD-715, federal agencies are required to go beyond establishing a special recruitment program for, and setting specific goals for, the hiring of individuals with targeted disabilities. Federal agencies must also report data on their employment of both individuals with disabilities and individuals with targeted disabilities, including data on each group’s participation in the occupational categories, in the agency’s major occupations, in career development programs and in recognition and awards programs. Agencies also report on each group’s grade levels, number of new hires, and promotion rates.
Data establishes that, from FY 2001 to FY 2005, individuals with targeted disabilities separated from the federal workforce at more than twice the rate that they were hired. For example, in FY 2005, there were only a total of 810 newly-hired employees with targeted disabilities, while a total of 2,197 employees with targeted disabilities left the federal workforce.
In addition, from FY 2001 to FY 2005, the percent of promotions for individuals with targeted disabilities (-20.51%) decreased significantly more than individuals with no disabilities (-1.04%) and the federal workforce as a whole (-1.49%). In FY 2005, individuals with targeted disabilities received promotions (0.76%) below their participation rate in the federal workforce (0.96%) and from FY 2001 to FY 2005, individuals with targeted disabilities only received a 14% increase in awards, well below the increases for individuals with no disabilities (20%) and the federal work force (21%).
The holistic approach adopted by MD-715 – which requires data not only on the numbers currently employed, but also on opportunities for advancement and recognition – is expected to lead to improved representation rates as individuals with disabilities both choose to join the Federal Government and choose to remain with the Federal Government.
Another key strategy employed by OFO to be more responsive to the needs of our federal sector customers is our successful Relationship Management project. This project, modeled after the private sector’s approach to customer service, brought OFO personnel together with EEO staff from twelve agencies in non-adversarial partnerships to examine methods of helping these agencies foster an inclusive work culture. OFO further engages in a broader spectrum of federal outreach efforts. In FY 2005, federal sector staff participated in more than 350 outreach and technical assistance events before stakeholder groups.
OFO staff also conducted a total of 39 MD-715 training sessions to federal sector staff responsible for reporting under MD-715. Much of the training focused on barrier analysis, so that agencies can more easily achieve Model EEO Program status. Through the EEOC's Revolving Fund OFO delivered nine full-day MD-715 training sessions, and eleven 2-day MD-715 courses.
OFO continued to assist agencies in their implementation of MD-715 by maintaining a series of informational materials on the EEOC website, including MD-715's Implementing Instructions, FAQs, Sample Workforce Data Tables, an OPM/Census Occupation Cross-Classification table (Crosswalk), guidance for 2nd level reporting agencies, and multiple versions of the required forms and instructions.
OFO participated at several national employee stakeholder conferences, by teaching workshops, maintaining informational booths, answering questions about the federal complaint adjudicative process and distributing copies of training materials. OFO staff attended and presented workshops at numerous conferences, including the Deaf and Hard of Hearing National Conference in Washington, D.C.
All of these efforts are part of OFO’s ongoing mission to promote workplace policies and practices that foster an inclusive work culture for individuals with disabilities. In continuing to explore new ways for our federal sector staff to interact with agencies to proactively prevent employment discrimination, we hope to assist agencies as they improve their participation rates for employees with disabilities. We believe the federal community can learn from EEOC’s successful effort in support of the New Freedom Initative which has been led by the Chair’s office, with support in the excellent staff work of the Office of Legal Counsel’s ADA team. By applying the strategies and tools developed from our experiences, and delivering relevant information and solutions to the leaders of federal agencies, we can assist agencies in creating more effective EEO programs.
In turn, agency heads can lead their agencies to see people with disabilities for who they really are: individuals with strengths and weaknesses - just like all of us – who represent an untapped pool of talent, who wish to be employed and to make a contribution and who are capable of successfully competing in the labor market. Indeed, a 30-year study of disabled workers and job performance found that workers with disabilities have high performance rates, with 90% having above-average job performance and higher than normal attendance records.6
Employers will only benefit by opening their doors wider by making full use of the skills and assets of individuals with disabilities.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear here today. I look forward to continuing to work vigilantly with the federal sector community as the Federal Government moves along the road to our final destination:
A model federal work force which fully reflects the contributions of all of this nation’s peoples, safeguards an unfettered freedom to compete, and provides steadfast protection of civil rights.
I welcome any questions from you, Madam Chair, and from the Vice Chair and Commissioners.
1 Restricted Access: Work Trends Survey of Employers About People With Disabilities, March 23, 2003, is available on the web at: http://www.heldrich.rutgers.edu/publications
2 Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact, is available on the web at: http://www.jan.edu/media/LowCostHighImpact.pdf
3 The Rehabilitation Act requires each federal agency to submit to the EEOC for review and approval “an affirmative action program plan for the hiring, placement, and advancement of individuals with disabilities.” The statute makes clear that EEOC is to approve these plans only after it “determines…that such plan provides sufficient assurances, procedures and commitments to provide adequate hiring, placement, and advancement opportunities for individuals with disabilities.” 29 U.S.C. 791(b).
4 The Americans With Disabilities Act does not contain similar affirmative employment requirements for private employers, although the EEOC is aware of private employers who voluntarily establish such programs.
5 Criteria for Evaluation of Affirmative Action Programs for Handicapped Individuals, Interagency Committee on Employment of Handicapped People (now the Interagency Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities), October 24, 1983.
6 The New Workforce: A Tight Labor Market Gives the Disabled the Chance to Make Permanent Inroads. Conlin, Michelle, March 20, 2000. Business Week at 68.
The following is a description of select initiatives that are intended to be used to improve the hiring and advancement of individuals with disabilities in the federal work force.
Pursuant to Section 501(a) of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, the Interagency Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (ICEPD) was established in 1973 to provide a focus for federal employment of people with disabilities and review the adequacy of hiring, placement, and advancement practices with respect to people with disabilities. The Act requires the ICEPD to periodically provide recommendations for legislative and administrative changes to the EEOC, which would then transmit the recommendations to Congress. Agencies in the ICEPD have included the EEOC, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), General Services Administration, Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Postal Service, and the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services. See Section 501 of Rehabilitation Act; Executive Orders 11830, 12106, 12450, and 12704.
On May 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order 12640, which established the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. The purpose of this Committee was to provide advice and information as to the development of maximum employment opportunities for people who are physically disabled, mentally retarded, and mentally ill. In particular, the Committee was responsible for advising the President about information that could be used by employers, labor unions, and organizations, suggesting programs for public education, and suggesting methods of enlisting cooperation among the various organizations and agencies. The Committee was comprised of a Chairman, up to four Vice Chairmen, and associate members consisting of heads of federal departments or agencies. The Committee also had the authority to invite representatives of business, industry, labor, private organizations, and individuals with disabilities to attend the meetings. On January 10, 2001, the Committee was replaced by the President’s Disability Employment Partnership Board in Executive Order 13187.
On March 13, 1998, President William J. Clinton issued Executive Order 13078 which established the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities to ensure that the federal government is a model employer of people with disabilities.6 The Task Force was instructed to review federal government personnel laws, regulations, and policies in order to recommend changes necessary to improve federal employment policies for people with disabilities. The Task Force issued reports in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2002, which provided many recommendations to the President for improving the representation of people with targeted disabilities in the federal work force. Some of those recommendations included:
On July 26, 2000, President William J. Clinton issued a second Executive Order 13163 to promote an increase in the employment opportunities for people with disabilities at all levels and occupations of the federal government and to support the goals articulated in Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act. Based on findings that qualified persons with disabilities have been refused employment, the Executive Order requires agencies to: (1) use available hiring authorities; (2) expand their outreach efforts; and (3) increase their efforts to accommodate people with disabilities. To accomplish these goals, agencies were ordered to submit a plan to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that outlined their strategies to increase the opportunities for people with disabilities to be employed in the agency.
On July 26, 2000, President Clinton also issued Executive Order 13164 to promote a model federal workplace that provides reasonable accommodation for: (1) individuals with disabilities in the application process for federal employment; (2) federal employees with disabilities in performing the essential functions of a position; and (3) federal employees with disabilities to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities. To accomplish these goals, it requires that executive branch federal agencies establish effective written procedures for processing reasonable accommodation requests under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The purpose of such procedures is to provide employees as well as supervisors and managers with an easy-to-understand, step-by-step explanation of the reasonable accommodation process. Each agency (and agency sub-component, if appropriate) may design procedures that best suit its organizational needs, and submit the procedures, and any subsequent modifications, to the EEOC.
On January 10, 2001, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13187, which established the President’s Disability Employment Partnership Board in place of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. In promoting the employment of people with disabilities, the Board was ordered to (1) develop and submit to the Office of Disability Employment in the Department of Labor a comprehensive written plan for joint public-private efforts to promote employment opportunities for people with disabilities and improve their access to financial institutions and commercial and business enterprises; (2) identify strategies that may be used by employers, labor unions, national and international organizations, and federal, state, and local officials to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities; and (3) submit annual written reports to the President on its activities, progress, and problems relating to maximizing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The Board is comprised of 15 members, including representatives from business, labor organizations, state or local government, people with disabilities, organizations serving people with disabilities, disabled veterans, and researchers or academicians. The Chairperson of the Board also serves as a member and Vice Chair of the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities.
On February 1, 2001, President George W. Bush announced the New Freedom Initiative to promote the full integration of people with disabilities into all aspects of American life. The goals of this comprehensive plan include expanding educational and employment opportunities, increasing access to assistive technologies and public accommodations, and providing accessible transportation and housing options for people with disabilities. The EEOC has taken a lead role in implementing the following activities as part of the New Freedom Initiative:
Pursuant to a grant funded by the Task Force under Executive Order 13078, Cornell University conducted a survey of 1,001 supervisors concerning the hiring and advancement of people with disabilities. See Cornell University, Bruyère, S., Erickson, W., &; Horne, R., Survey of the Federal Government on Supervisor Practices in Employment of People with Disabilities (2002) [Cornell University Survey]. The supervisors were employed by the seventeen federal agencies that served as members of the Task Force. The Task Force agencies comprised 948,867 (54%) of the total employees in the federal government, 63,424 people with disabilities, of which 11,790 were PEOPLE WITH TARGETED DISABILITIES. Cornell University published the results of the survey in 2002. The findings pertinent to this report indicated the following:
The following is a list of key disability-related documents available from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on www.eeoc.gov
ADA and Particular Impairments
Q&A: Blindness & Vision Impairments in the Workplace & the ADA (10/25/05)
Q&A: Cancer in the Workplace & the ADA (7/26/05)
Q&A: Intellectual Disabilities in the Workplace & the ADA (10/20/04)
Q&A: Epilepsy in the Workplace & the ADA (7/28/04)
Q&A: Diabetes in the Workplace & the ADA (10/29/03)
Enforcement Guidance on the ADA and Psychiatric Disabilities (3/25/97)
Instructions for EEOC Field Offices: Analyzing ADA Charges After Supreme Court Decisions Addressing “Disability” and “Qualified” (7/26/99)
Enforcement Guidance on the Effect of Representations Made in Applications for Benefits on the Determination of Whether a Person is a “Qualified Individual with a Disability” Under the
Compliance Manual Section 902: Definition of the Term Disability (3/14/95)
Reasonable Accommodation for Attorneys with Disabilities (5/23/06)
Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the ADA (as revised, 10/17/02)
Work At Home/Telework as a Reasonable Accommodation (2/3/03)
Practical Advice for Drafting and Implementing Reasonable Accommodation Procedures Under Executive Order 13164 (7/19/05)
Policy Guidance on Executive Order 13164: Establishing Procedures to Facilitate the Provision of Reasonable Accommodation (7/26/00)
Enforcement Guidance: Disability-Related Inquiries & Medical Examinations of Employees Under the ADA (7/27/00)
Enforcement Guidance: Preemployment Disability-Related Questions & Medical Examinations (10/10/95)
Obtaining and Using Employee Medical Information as Part of Emergency Evacuation Procedures (10/31/01)
Q&A: Association Provision of the ADA (10/17/05)
Job Applicants and the ADA (10/7/03)
The ADA: A Primer for Small Business (8/15/02)
Enforcement Guidance on Application of the ADA to Contingent Workers Placed By Temporary Agencies & Other Staffing Firms (12/22/00)
Enforcement Guidance: Workers’ Compensation & the ADA (9/3/96)
FMLA, ADA, and Title VII (November 1995)
Policy Guidance on Exec. Order 13145: To Prohibit Discrimination in Federal Employment Based on Genetic Information (7/26/00)
How to Comply with the ADA: A Guide for Restaurants & Other Food Service Employers (10/28/04)
Interim Enforcement Guidance on the Application of the ADA to Disability-Based Distinctions in Employer Provided Health Insurance (6/8/93)
Q & A for Mediation Providers: Mediation and the ADA (5/10/05)
Q & A for Parties to Mediation: Mediation and the ADA (5/10/05)
Final Report on Best Practices for the Employment of People with Disabilities in State Government (10/31/05)
Interim Report on Best Practices for the Employment of People with Disabilities in State Government (10/29/04)
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