Nationwide workshops launched under New Freedom Initiative
WASHINGTON - As part of President George W. Bush's New Freedom Initiative, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair Cari M. Dominguez today announced a series of workshops designed to share information on the employment of individuals with disabilities with small businesses nationwide. This free, flexible outreach program will target the participation of small business chambers of commerce, associations and development centers outside of major metropolitan areas.
"The EEOC has a critical role to play in introducing the fastest growing sector of the business community to a vastly skilled but underutilized labor pool right in their own backyard," said Chair Dominguez. "In the spirit of the New Freedom Initiative, these interactive workshops are an important step toward providing small business owners and managers with answers to questions about everything they ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask about tapping into a tremendous business resource, individuals with disabilities."
Under the leadership of Chair Dominguez, the EEOC is expanding upon its traditional enforcement role, with regard to federal anti-discrimination statutes, to embrace innovative education and technical assistance strategies for the employer community. The workshops, which are being developed by EEOC's Office of Legal Counsel and field offices across the United States, will be customized for each group of small business participants. The focus will be on the advantages of hiring people with disabilities and the workshops will address such topics as permissible questions during job interviews, reasonable accommodations, recruitment resources, and tax incentives. The EEOC will also partner with the U.S. Department of Justice to offer small businesses insights into the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) relating to Title III, which covers public accommodations and commercial facilities.
The first workshops will take place in Rapid City, S.D. (April 9 and 10); Reno, Nev. (April 23); Morgantown, W.Va. (May 29); Kenosha, Wis. (June 3); Milwaukee, Wis. (June 4); and Phoenix, Ariz. (June 17). The schedule continues to develop with additional locations.
Small businesses and groups interested in learning more about the opportunity to participate in this workshop series are encouraged to call Joyce Walker-Jones or Michelle Zinman in the EEOC's Office of Legal Counsel at (202) 663-4503.
President Bush introduced the New Freedom Initiative as a top priority of his Administration during his first 10 days in office. Historically, Americans with disabilities, even during times of economic prosperity, have faced a tremendous rate of unemployment. The President's goals for ending this unemployment include facilitating compliance with the ADA, expanding telecommuting options, implementing the Ticket to Work/Work Incentives Improvement Act, making available assistive technologies, and improving access to transportation. The Initiative also includes provisions related to enhancing opportunities in the areas of education and homeownership for the disability community.
In addition to enforcing Title I of the ADA, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments, the EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Equal Pay Act; prohibitions against discrimination affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Further information about the Commission is available on its Web site at www.eeoc.gov.