As the nation's largest employer, the federal government is committed to increasing and improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Being a model employer for people with disabilities requires federal agencies to improve their efforts to recruit, hire, retain and promote employees with disabilities and targeted disabilities.
As a Disability Program Manager (DPM) or Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC), you are responsible for ensuring your agency is a model employer for people with disabilities. One way an agency can demonstrate its commitment to being a model employer is to use the streamlined hiring process available through the Schedule A hiring authority for persons with disabilities (5 C.F.R. 213.3102 (u)).
Schedule A is an excepted service hiring authority used to non-competitively hire a person with:
The Schedule A hiring authority simplifies the often complex federal hiring process. Agencies can hire qualified Schedule A eligible applicants without posting or publicizing the job.
This guide provides answers to many of your questions about using Schedule A to hire persons with disabilities at your agency. The ABCs for Schedule A Success are:
As a DPM/SPPC you probably wear a lot of different hats and juggle a lot of different responsibilities, one of which is to increase employment of persons with disabilities at your agency. The key to continuous improvement is an effective recruitment and outreach strategy that ensures applicants eligible for Schedule A appointment: (1) know about employment opportunities at your agency; and (2) know how to apply for positions using Schedule A.
Targeted outreach and recruitment efforts are central to diversifying your agency's applicant pool. Proactive outreach to employment service providers and disability organizations will help you build a pipeline of qualified Schedule A eligible applicants. As part of your outreach plan, you should identify national and local disability advocacy groups as well as state service providers who can disseminate job postings and identify candidates. Below are recommendations to help you develop an effective outreach plan:
The second piece of a successful outreach plan is to make sure applicants and organizational partners are familiar with the federal hiring processes, including Schedule A hiring authority for persons with disabilities. As we all know, the complex federal hiring process can seem complicated to the general public. Confusion and a lack of understanding about the federal hiring process may deter qualified individuals with disabilities from applying for jobs at your agency. Below are best practices to help you address the knowledge gap among stakeholders and improve the effectiveness of your outreach efforts.
Remember - Communication is Key!
For additional resources to help you improve your recruiting strategies, please read: The Employer Assistance and Resource Network's Tips for Recruiting and Disability is Diversity: Effective Hiring Practices for Federal Employers.
In addition to conducting pro-active outreach, you are also responsible for helping Schedule A applicants navigate your agency's hiring process. At times this can seem like an overwhelming task given all of your additional responsibilities. The steps listed below are geared to help make your workload more manageable.
When you receive a resume or application package, you should follow-up with the applicant by acknowledging receipt of their application materials and letting the applicant know how the federal hiring process works. As a rule of thumb, you should follow-up with candidates within two business days. Timely communication is respectful of the applicant.
Verify that the applicant is, in fact, Schedule A eligible. Since Schedule A is an affirmative action program for persons with disabilities, applicants must provide proof of their disability. The Schedule A regulations defines proof of disability as "appropriate documentation (e.g., records, statements, or other appropriate information)" from:
An applicant's eligibility to apply under Schedule A will be determined by one of the above entities. It is common practice to accept as proof of disability a letter from one of the above entities, certifying that the applicant has an intellectual, psychiatric or severe physical disability. The letter need not disclose the specific disability that makes him or her eligible for appointment. The letter should, however, clearly state that the applicant is qualified for appointment under this authority. Sample Schedule A letters can be found on OPM's website.
Next, determine whether the candidate is applying to a specific vacancy announcement(s). If the individual is not applying for a particular position, try and identify existing vacancies he or she may be qualified for and/or place him or her in your candidate database.
Finally, you may be responsible for reviewing the applicant's documentation to determine whether an applicant is likely to succeed in performing a specific job or a range of jobs. This determination can be made based on the applicant's employment, educational or other relevant experience. You should also consult with Human Resources before making any final determination.
Section A of this guide discussed the importance of conducting targeted outreach to external stakeholders. However, outreach internally to agency employees - specifically hiring managers and human resources or Equal Employment Opportunity personnel - is equally important. Human resources staff and hiring managers must be educated on the benefits of using Schedule A. By engaging in internal outreach, hiring managers may contact you before posting a vacancy announcement to seek help in filling the position. Below are strategies to help you effectively use Schedule A to fill job openings at your agency.
When a hiring manager contacts you about open positions, your first step should be to understand the position and what qualifications the ideal candidate will have. Most importantly, review the qualification standards and essential functions of the job with the manager.
Once you have a clear understanding of the job from the hiring manager, you are ready to identify prospective candidates. Review resumes in your resume bank for applicants who may be a fit for the job. Having an up-to-date resume bank expedites the hiring process-your resume bank helps you identify candidates as soon as you learn about a vacancy. You can also utilize the Workforce Recruitment Program and the OPM Shared List of People with Disabilities as sources to find excellent resumes. It is just one more way to help managers see the benefit of Schedule A.
Once you have identified candidates who you think are qualified for the position, reach out to the candidates and ask them for a tailored resume specific to the position. Once you have that information collected, you should provide the hiring manager or human resources professional with resumes and other materials listed in the position description. You should NOT submit the proof of disability documentation (Schedule A letter or other medical information) to the hiring manager.
After an appropriate amount of time, you should follow up with the appropriate parties regarding next steps. You should also ask the hiring manager for feedback on your efforts. This will help you improve and build stronger relationships with contacts at your agency.
A1. Schedule A is an appointing authority, or hiring authority. It is an Excepted Service appointment for persons with disabilities. The regulations guiding the Excepted Service - Appointment of Persons with Disabilities, Career, and Career-Conditional Appointments - are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The citation is 5 CFR § 213.3102(u).
A2. Yes. One of the benefits of using the Schedule A hiring authority is that agencies can make an appointment without going through the typical competitive process. As Schedule A is an excepted service hiring authority, individuals are hired non-competitively. Managers may hire qualified Schedule A candidates for a funded vacancy without issuing a job announcement.
A3. A person has a disability if:
The standard for showing that an employee or applicant has a disability under the Rehabilitation Act is not high. The law is meant to have a broad scope of protection. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Questions and Answers on the ADA Amendments Act provides more information about who is a person with a disability under the ADA. Physical or mental impairments that are almost always covered under the Rehabilitation Act include:
A4. Schedule A regulations specify that a person must have an intellectual disability, a severe physical disability or a psychiatric disability to be eligible to be hired through Schedule A. The regulations do not specifically include or exclude particular disabilities under those three categories of disabilities, and they are not limited to the examples in the previous question of impairments that will almost always meet the Rehabilitation Act's definition of a disability. A person may not have a "targeted disability" as defined by Standard Form (SF) 256 and still be eligible for Schedule A. Additionally, an agency should not request an applicant fill out the SF 256 until after being hired. SF 256 cannot be used to determine eligibility for Schedule A. For additional information, check OPM's Disability Employment Glossary.
A5: Yes. As discussed in Part B of this document, under the Schedule A regulations appointees must provide proof of disability documentation. Proof of disability documentation is not necessarily the same type of documentation that would be required for a reasonable accommodation. Agencies may verify that the proof of disability documentation was indeed issued by one of the entities listed in Part B. Verification can be accomplished in a number of ways e.g. contacting the issuing entity for verification that the documents are genuine or insuring the letterhead is genuine.
A6. No. As of February 2013, OPM amended the Schedule A regulations and eliminated the certificate of job readiness requirement. Now, agencies are required to consider a variety of factors - education, work experience, etc. - to determine whether the applicant is likely to succeed in the job.
A7. Yes. Schedule A is an affirmative action program for persons with disabilities. Thus, employees hired under Schedule A are required to identify their disability status on SF-256. Agencies should assure the appointee that every precaution is taken to ensure the information provided is confidential and explain the importance of keeping accurate data to determine an agency's progress in meeting the requirements set forth in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Employees should not be reprimanded or removed from service for declining to identify their disability status.
A8: No. However, Agencies are strongly urged to convert Schedule A appointees at the end of the two year period for noncompetitive conversion. Remember, the intent behind Schedule A is to help people with disabilities attain "civil service competitive status." Civil service competitive status is obtained through conversion to the competitive service, rather than remaining in the excepted service.
A9. Under this authority, an agency may noncompetitively convert an employee to a career or career conditional appointment in the competitive service when he or she:
The Code of Federal Regulations citation is 5 C.F.R § 315.709.
A10. Yes. Federal employees can apply to internal vacancy announcements or be promoted to a new position using Schedule A. For further information, please visit the OPM website.
eFedLink: eFedLink is a free resource designed to help federal hiring managers and human resources personnel recruit, hire, retain and advance persons with disabilities in the federal government.
Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN): EARN is a resource for employers seeking to recruit, hire, retain and advance qualified employees with disabilities. EARN supports employers through toll-free technical assistance, individualized consultation, customized trainings, webinars and events, and regular updates on disability employment news.
The Workforce Recruitment Program, a recruitment and referral program, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, and the U.S. Department of Defense, connects federal sector, private, and nonprofit employers nationwide with highly motivated, qualified, and pre-screened postsecondary students and recent graduates with disabilities who are ready to prove their abilities in summer or permanent jobs.
The OPM Shared List of People with Disabilities is a database of candidates with disabilities, who are Schedule A eligible. It is provided by OPM free of charge to federal human resources and hiring managers in order to assist in the recruitment of people with disabilities. Prior to inclusion in the Shared List, candidates proceed through a skills, education, professionalism, and work ethics screening process.
Vocational Rehabilitation: Vocational rehabilitation state agencies facilitate a wide range of services for youth and adults with disabilities that help prepare them with skills to meet the workplace needs of business. The Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation has created a National Employment Team (The NET) that offers businesses a single point of contact to connect with qualified applicants, resources, and support services in their local area.
Employment Networks: Employment Networks are public or private organizations that are authorized by the Social Security Administration's Ticket to Work Program to provide free employment support services to Social Security disability beneficiaries ages 18 to 64.
The Department of Veterans Affairs: The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, assists Veterans with service-connected disabilities and service members who are in the process of transitioning from the military to civilian employment in preparing for, finding, and retaining suitable employment.
Centers for Independent Living (CILs): The Centers for Independent Living are federally funded consumer-controlled nonprofit, nonresidential organizations. The CILs' mission is to empower people with disabilities by providing information and referral services, independent living skills training, peer counseling, and transition services, and by developing additional services based on community needs. A growing number of CILs are Employment Networks and offer additional services such as job interview practice and other pre-employment services to people with disabilities.
Partnering with the Employee Resource Group (ERG) at your agency for persons with disabilities can help you with your recruitment and outreach efforts. Below are links to National Employee Resource Groups for federal employees and applicants with disabilities:
Department of Defense Computer/Electronic Accommodation Program: The Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) provides free assistive technology and services to people with disabilities throughout the federal government.
JAN - The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the most comprehensive resource for job accommodations available and is a terrific and easy-to-use resource. This free consulting service is designed to increase the employability of people with disabilities. JAN provides individualized worksite accommodation solutions, as well as information on job accommodations and related subjects for employers and people with disabilities.
U.S Department of Agriculture TARGET Center: The TARGET Center accommodates individuals with disabilities, educates management, and supports agency efforts to increase the recruitment and advancement of individuals with disabilities. Federal agencies have access to the TARGET Center accessibility, interpreting services, ergonomics and education programs.
Federal Communications Commission Disability Rights Office: The Disability Rights Office (DRO) addresses disability-related matters, including access to telecommunications services and equipment; hearing aid compatibility; access to advanced communications services and equipment; access to Internet browsers built into mobile phones; telecommunications relay services; the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program; accessible video programming and video programming apparatus (access to televised emergency information, closed captioning on television and television programs on the Internet, video description, and accessible user interfaces, text menus, and program guides). DRO provides expert advice and assistance to other Commission Bureaus and Offices, consumers, industry, and others on issues relevant to persons with disabilities.