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INTRODUCTION

The federal government is committed to being a model employer for people with disabilities. Agencies are required to improve their efforts to recruit, hire, retain and promote individuals with disabilities and targeted disabilities. One way an agency can demonstrate its commitment 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)).

What is Schedule A hiring authority for persons with disabilities?

Schedule A is an excepted service hiring authority used to non-competitively hire an individual with:

  • intellectual disabilities
  • severe physical disabilities; or
  • psychiatric disabilities.

Schedule A hiring, when used correctly, can help your agency hire skilled and diverse employees through an expedited process which requires no public notice. That is the beauty of utilizing this hiring authority to fill your positions!

Ready to learn the ABCs for Schedule A Success?

This guide answers many questions Human Resource (HR) Professionals, like you, may have about using Schedule A to hire individuals with disabilities.

A. Build the business case for Schedule A

Including the diverse perspective of people with disabilities will help the federal government better serve the American people. One way to expedite the hiring process for qualified and diverse candidates is to use the Schedule A hiring authority for persons with disabilities. Unfortunately Schedule A is underutilized due, in large part, to a lack of awareness about this hiring process. You can promote the benefits of using this hiring authority across the agency, by partnering with agency personnel responsible for hiring people with disabilities (such as the Disability Program Manager (DPM)/Special Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC)/ Special Emphasis Manager) throughout the recruitment lifecycle.

1. Stress Schedule A usage in the Agency Recruitment Plan

An effective way to ensure agency personnel hire more people with disabilities is to highlight Schedule A in the agency's overall Recruitment Plan as well as the Operational Plan for Increasing Employment of People with Disabilities. It is important to make sure Schedule A hiring is emphasized in these plans because agency HR offices use these plans to identify gaps in the agency's workforce.

2. Individualized Recruitment Planning:

Tailored disability recruitment planning can encourage hiring managers to use Schedule A. HR professionals, in collaboration with the DPM or SPPC, should work with individual managers to develop a tailored disability recruitment strategy. A tailored recruitment strategy will not only encourage hiring managers to use Schedule A, but it will also help the DPM or SPPC build a pipeline of qualified candidates who can be hired without posting or publicizing the job.

Quick Tips and Helpful Hints:

B. Recruit and Assess Schedule A Applicants

1. Use Vacancy Announcements to Recruit Schedule A Applicants

The second part of a successful Schedule A hiring strategy is to make sure applicants know how to navigate the federal hiring process, including Schedule A. The best way to inform qualified candidates with disabilities about Schedule A is to include information about the hiring authority in your agency's vacancy announcements. For example:

  • Schedule A Statement: Include standardized language about the Schedule A hiring authority for persons with disabilities in all vacancy announcements. For example:

    Schedule A Statement: [Insert Agency Name] welcomes and encourages applications from individuals with disabilities. The federal government has a streamlined hiring process for individuals with disabilities, known as Schedule A. To learn more about Schedule A and eligibility requirements please visit:

  • Reasonable Accommodation Statement: Ensure all vacancy announcements include a reasonable accommodation statement.
  • Point of Contact: Consider including the DPM or SPPC's contact information on the vacancy announcement.
  • Explain the Application Process: Make sure the vacancy announcement clearly states the process by which Schedule A applicants should apply for the position and what documents they need to submit to receive consideration.

2. Assess Applicant's Qualifications

HR professionals should assess the pre-screened applications to determine whether the applicant meets the job qualification requirements as well as the rating criteria. Qualified Schedule A eligible candidates should then be referred to the hiring manager in accordance with applicable regulations.

C. Successfully On-board Schedule A Employees

Once a prospective candidate has been identified, you should work with the hiring manager, DPM or SPPC to on-board the candidate. Below are some best practices for successfully on-boarding Schedule A hires.

1. Confirm Schedule A Eligibility

Prior to extending an offer, you should contact the DPM/SPPC and verify whether the candidate has submitted their proof of disability documentation or Schedule A letter. Often, the DPM/SPPC will have collected this documentation at the application stage to speed the process along. If the DPM/SPPC does not have this information, notify the applicant that the offer is contingent upon receipt of the applicant's proof of disability documentation.

Remember, the hiring manager should not be involved in the disability documentation process. Proof of disability documentation, like other medical information, must be kept strictly confidential.

Address Reasonable Accommodation Requests Prior to the Candidate's Start Date: In general, the DPM should be working with the candidate to process reasonable accommodation requests. Nevertheless, once an offer has been extended, and prior to the entry-on-duty date being finalized, you should contact the candidate to verify whether his or her accommodation needs have been addressed. Where the need has not been addressed, you should follow the agency's policy for handling reasonable accommodation requests. Furthermore, you should work with the DPM/SPPC and the new employee's manager, where necessary, to ensure that the accommodation is in place when the new employee comes on board.

Ensure Personnel Documents are correctly Coded: When processing the Standard Form 52, Request for Personnel Action, and/or the Standard Form 50, Notification of Personnel Action, make sure that the Schedule A employee's paperwork is coded correctly. Review Chapter 11 of The Guide to Processing Personnel Actions for additional information.

Make Sure the Candidate Completes Standard Form 256: 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.

Track the Schedule A Employee's Time in Service: Finally, you should track the Schedule A employee's Time in Service to identify the opportunity for conversion to the competitive service is identified in a timely manner. Although conversion to the competitive service is not required, HR professionals have a responsibility to make managers and employees aware of this opportunity as soon as it is available and support managers in understanding the intent of the hiring authority. An agency may noncompetitively convert to a career or career conditional appointment in the competitive service an employee who:

  • Completes 2 or more years of satisfactory service, without a break of more than 30 days, under non-temporary Schedule A appointments;
  • Is recommended for conversion by their supervisors;
  • Meets all requirements and conditions governing career and career-conditional appointment except those requirements concerning competitive selection from a register and medical qualifications; and
  • Is converted without a break in service of one workday (5 CFR §315.709).

Quick Tips and Helpful Hints

To ensure managers and employees are made aware of the opportunity to convert to the competitive service, HR Professionals should:

  • Establish a process for identifying eligible employees. Depending on your HR system, this may include inserting a manual tickler in the agency's HR system.
  • Alert hiring managers when their Schedule A employee is eligible for conversion.
  • Support managers in understanding the intent of the hiring authority.
  • Work with the hiring manager to help them make the appropriate determination as to conversion to competitive status.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q1: What is Schedule A Hiring Authority for Persons with Disabilities?

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).

Q2: Who is eligible for appointment under Schedule A hiring authority for persons with disabilities?

A2. Schedule A regulations specify that a person must have an intellectual disability, a severe physical disability or a psychiatric disability to be appointed using this hiring authority. The regulations do not specifically include or exclude particular disabilities under those three categories of disabilities. It is important to distinguish persons who are Schedule A eligible from persons with a "targeted disability", as defined by Standard Form (SF) 256. A person need not have a "targeted disability" to be appointed using Schedule A. SF 256 cannot be used to determine eligibility for Schedule A.

Q3: Can an agency hire a Schedule A candidate without posting a job announcement?

A3. 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 public notice of the job announcement.

Q4: How can HR identify and recruit qualified Schedule A eligible candidates?

A4. Targeted outreach and recruitment to disability organizations and employment service providers can help build a pipeline of qualified Schedule A eligible candidates. HR should work with the individual responsible for the disability and/or diversity recruitment program - such as the Disability Program Manager, Selective Placement Program Coordinator or Special Emphasis Program Coordinator - to develop a Schedule A recruitment strategy. Below are steps HR Professionals can take to recruit candidates with disabilities:

Q5: Are agencies required to convert Schedule A hires into the competitive service at the end of the two year period for noncompetitive conversion?

A5: No. However, Agencies are strongly urged to convert Schedule A appointees at the end of the two year period for noncompetitive conversion. 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.

Q6: Can Schedule A eligible employees utilize this authority to apply for a higher grade positions?

A6. Yes. Schedule A eligible employees may utilize this authority to apply for a higher grade positions. Additionally, at most agencies, time-in grade restrictions do not apply to promotions in the excepted service and there is no limit on the number of times an eligible applicant may be appointed under this authority. For further information, please visit the OPM website.

RESOURCES

Skill Development

  • HR University A Roadmap to Success: Hiring, Retaining and Including People with Disabilities: This free online course provides Federal employees with resources and strategies to successfully hire, retain, and advance employees with disabilities.
  • 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.

Recruitment & Outreach

  • 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.

Employee Organizations:

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:

Reasonable Accommodation

  • 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.