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PRESS RELEASE
2-23-16

EEOC Proposes Regulations Describing Federal Government’s Obligation to Engage in Affirmative Action for People with Disabilities

Commission Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Rule Implementing Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) describing specific actions that federal agencies must take to comply with their obligation to engage in affirmative action in employment for individuals with disabilities. The NPRM is available in the Public Inspection portion of the Federal Register, and will be officially published February 24, 2016. Members of the public have 60 days from that date, April 25, 2016, to submit comments. EEOC has also published a question-and-answer document on the NPRM and a document providing background information and a summary of the NPRM.

Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to create affirmative action plans for the employment of people with disabilities, and to submit those plans to EEOC for approval. On May 15, 2014, EEOC published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) asking for public input on how the EEOC should revise its regulations to clarify what an affirmative action plan must include in order to be approved.

The proposed rule reaffirms the federal government's commitment to being a model employer of people with disabilities.  It would require federal agencies to adopt the goal of achieving a 12% representation rate for individuals with disabilities, and a 2% representation rate for individuals with targeted/severe disabilities. Targeted disabilities are those that the government has, for several decades, placed aspecial emphasis on in hiring because they pose the greatest barriers to employment. The goals would apply at both higher and lower levels of federal employment. Hiring efforts would be further improved through focused recruitment efforts and simplified access to disability hiring programs and services. 

In addition to setting numerical goals and requiring enhanced efforts to hire individuals with disabilities, the proposed rule would require agencies to provide personal assistance services to employees who, because of a disability, need these services to help with activities such as eating and using the restroom while at work. 

The proposal would also collect into a single rule, longstanding requirements found in a variety of sources, including management directives and Executive Orders. This will provide clarity for federal agencies for the development of their affirmative action plans. The proposed rule does not impose any obligations on private businesses or state and local governments.

"The federal government has a special responsibility to lead by example in serving as a model employer for people with disabilities in the workforce," said EEOC Chair Jenny Yang. "This proposal offers concrete steps and accountability mechanisms to promote employment and advancement opportunities for people with disabilities, including individuals with targeted or severe disabilities."

Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum, who led an internal work group that developed the NPRM, added, "This rule can be a game-changer in increasing the employment of people with disabilities in the federal government. Since 2013, federal contractors have been required to meet goals for the employment of individuals with disabilities. EEOC's proposed rule will hold the federal government to an even higher standard, particularly with regard to hiring people with targeted disabilities and providing personal assistance services."

The Commission invites comments on any aspect of the proposed rule from members of the public. In addition, the Commission invites responses to a number of specific questions posed in the preamble of the NPRM. Methods for commenting are specified in the notice in the Federal Register,  and EEOC will consider all public comments before finalizing the rule. The final rule also will be coordinated with other federal agencies and reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget before becoming effective. 

EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.