EEOC Q&A Guide Promotes Federal Hiring of Workers with Disabilities

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued a new question-and-answer guide aimed at promoting the hiring and advancement of individuals with disabilities in federal government employment.

Announcing the resource publication for federal agencies on Aug. 26, Commission Chair Naomi C. Earp said, "The EEOC is doing everything it can to provide agencies with useful guidance on how to be the nation's model employer, providing equal opportunity to all Americans, including those with disabilities."

The percentage of federal employees with targeted disabilities, which are severe physical or mental disabilities that historically have resulted in barriers to employment, has declined each year since reaching a peak of 1.24 percent in Fiscal Years 1993 and 1994. In FY 2007, the participation rate of people with targeted disabilities declined to 0.92 percent of the federal government's total work force, the lowest participation rate in more than 20 years.

"Even though the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 has long required federal agencies to engage in affirmative action to hire and advance individuals with disabilities, the federal government has failed to meet this challenge," said Christine Griffin, EEOC commissioner. "We must and can do better. This question-and-answer guide will help agencies make concrete progress."

Griffin has overseen the EEOC's Leadership for the Employment of Americans with Disabilities Initiative (LEAD), which aims to boost the ranks of individuals with disabilities in federal employment to 2 percent by 2010.

The issued question-and-answer guide responds to frequently asked questions about what the law allows and requires federal agencies to do with respect to affirmative hiring and employment of individuals with disabilities. Among other topics, the publication discusses:

  • Special regulations that allow federal agencies to hire individuals with severe disabilities who are qualified for jobs without going through the usual competitive hiring process;
  • Procedures that agencies are required to have for providing reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities;
  • Specific types of accommodations that enable people with disabilities to work in federal sector jobs;
  • How an agency's obligations under the Rehabilitation Act interact with obligations under other federal laws and how agencies should handle reasonable accommodation issues when they enter into relationships with other entities (such as other federal agencies or private companies that provide training for agency employees); and
  • The kinds of questions that agencies may (and may not) ask about an applicant's or employee's disability.

The new publication is available at www.eeoc.gov/federal/qanda-employment-with-disabilities.html.

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