Disability Awareness: What Companies Need to Know

EEOC Responds to 10 Questions

In the U.S. during National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), October is an excellent time for people with disabilities to find jobs. There are many different monthly observances in the U.S., and you may not have noticed them all.

NDEAM is sponsored annually in October by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, which says it was started in 1945. NDEAM is a nonprofit, public-interest organization focused on disability and employment issues.

The employment population ratio for people without disabilities (65.7%) was more than triple that of people with disabilities (18.7%) in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s an unfortunate fact that there are so few employers who believe that their workers with disabilities are capable of being productive and fulfilling their job responsibilities. It’s been 30-years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but there is still much more progress to be made to ensure that people with disabilities are able to live full lives.

New and evolving assistive technology will help people with disabilities in the workplace and society. Disability discrimination is a persistent problem, despite some progress. You can work to eliminate this problem. Consider this: If the entire population of people with disabilities were put to work, it would add more than 11 million jobs to the U.S. economy.

Christopher Kuczynski works as an assistant legal counsel for the United States of America. He’s currently in Washington D.C. and has been working with the DOJ and the U.S. This website provides information on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as well as information about GINA.

Chris served as an associate director of the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2001-2003. He is considered to be an expert on employment and anti-discrimination laws. Employers nationwide should pay close attention to what Chris has to say about how to foster discrimination-free work environments.

Q&A: My conversation with Chris — presented in a Question & Answer format below — covers the following disability employment issues: Workforce Diversity & Disability.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2014, 4.5 million people in the United States were diagnosed with some form of mental or substance use disorder and 8 percent of adults (18 and older) have a disability.

Leadership is not just about showing up at work, it’s about the difference you make in your organization. Accreditation & Certification. EEOC Employment Practices.

Diversity & Disability

The National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEM) is an opportunity for businesses and organizations to demonstrate their support for individuals with disabilities by creating inclusive work environments. It gives employees with disabilities the ability to work and contributes to their overall quality of life.

CK: The key thing I want to emphasize is the importance of diversity, especially diversity of disability. The workplace in America today is not a place where people with disabilities can work.

Many organizations are beginning to look at disability in the workplace more positively and value people with disabilities for their abilities and their contributions. It is my hope that this book will help to further that awareness. A month like this is a reminder of why it should be.

DG: As a person with a developmental disability, I know firsthand how hard it is to find work when my full-time job is caring for my son. In fact, I have learned to look for jobs that are flexible around his schedule, or, in other words, are able to accommodate me when I need to take time off.

I am lucky to have a great employer who understands the importance of being accessible for me and other people like me. B: It is difficult for those with disabilities to find jobs because of the stigma and myths that surround us. Many employers still do not get it about why disability employment is important.

As companies recognize the importance of employees with disabilities, disability awareness continues to be a major workplace issue.

Reasonable Accommodation

The study found that the average cost of accommodation for a disabled person is only $500 and the return on investment is much higher than that figure. There is a lot of scientific evidence that employers should know about. C.K.: The studies are available to employers.

I think employers often look at this figure to help them decide what they should pay their staff in salaries. In addition to the money spent, companies may also think about how disruptive the accommodation process could be to the operation of their business.

The EEOC has issued a guidance document explaining what reasonable accommodation is, how businesses need to go about offering it, and what happens if they don’t comply with these requirements.

DG: Do enough employers know the rules, regulations and responsibilities involved in providing reasonable accommodations, nearly three decades after the ADA became law?

CK: I think that most employers are aware of the ADA’s rules and regulations, but there are certainly some that don’t.

Companies that operate under the EEOC have many resources to learn more. They can go to our website, http://www.eeoc.gov for information.

Small businesses also have a special team of liaisons who work to help provide accommodations to people with disabilities. These liaisons can help you determine what your policy says regarding accommodating disabilities.

They can help you understand whether or not it’s required that you accommodate people with disabilities, as well as any guidelines you need to follow if an employee with a disability comes to you for accommodation.

Leadership from the Top

DG: What matters in Corporate America is not the message but how you present it. In a good corporate culture, workforce diversity includes people with disabilities. But in bad cultures, workplace diversity is used as a means to get rid of disabled employees.

It is critical that the message filters down from the top of the organization to the rest of the team. Even if the best team members are not motivated about a project or initiative, the message needs to get out and spread to the rest of the organization.

That includes disability hiring and diversity. “The top leaders of the organization must hold themselves accountable for being inclusive and not discriminating.

What good leadership looks like, especially for businesses that have employees with disabilities, is to put aside personal views and prejudices and act based on what is best for the business and what is best for your employees.

Specific Stereotypes

I have been working with people with disabilities since 1986. I have seen first-hand how the employment community has changed, and yet many myths and fears remain, especially when it comes to hiring people with disabilities. Here is an email we received recently from a person with autism, who felt that his resume did not stand out enough.

He wanted to know what he should do to make his resume stand out. “I am very good with computers and excel at problem solving; however, I have no work experience. I have written my resume in Word to highlight my skills in writing, research and problem solving.

It is common for employers to have negative attitudes and misconceptions about the impact of a person’s history of mental health conditions. It is not a fact that all persons with mental illness automatically mean an increased risk of workplace violence.

It’s wrong to say that the safety risks associated with mental disabilities are no greater than those associated with the general population. The causes of safety concerns include, but aren’t limited to, some physical conditions such as visual impairment.

Business Case

DG: That is not to say that they don’t face any challenges. And, I’m sure this is not an isolated incident but certainly, there have been several high profile incidents where it seems like people with disabilities, their jobs are lost. There is an element of the public that is afraid that because of the public perception they may be able to be fired from their job.

CK: With many people with disabilities having problem-solving skills that exceed what most people have, they can have the advantage of being more productive at work.

Diversification of customer base. It’s never been easier to do business online, thanks to ecommerce, mobile apps and more accessible interfaces. But it can be expensive, so many companies are struggling to find ways to market to everyone. One way is by offering an array of products and services to customers of all kinds, from all walks of life.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, about 60 million people in America – or roughly one in five people – either have or will have a disability at some point in their lives.

This is really interesting! “You have a very broad definition of what constitutes a disability today.” — CK. It is worth noting that the law has expanded to include many of the conditions that CK mentions. “It’s easy for a society to be blind to problems it doesn’t understand.” — Sandra L.

You’re absolutely right that ADA enforcement is unique. For one thing, it’s an employment law that doesn’t require a victim to have been harmed by discrimination. For another, unlike Title VII, which is enforced primarily by the EEOC, it’s enforced by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which works under the Attorney General.

EEOC: The EEOC gets over 30 percent of its workload from the ADA, and over 70 percent of those cases are resolved administratively. In addition to the suits we file, we also give employers technical assistance.

Genetic Discrimination

EEOC is continuing to observe genetic discrimination in employment practices and policies across all areas of life. This includes employment, disability and health insurance. Genetic discrimination has been occurring since our founding in 1964 and we continue to monitor for emerging issues in the work environment.

GINA protects against discriminatory decisions about genetic information in insurance, employment and healthcare. It ensures that a person’s genetic information cannot be used as the basis for any decision about hiring, promoting, firing or treating an individual without their consent.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act protects employers against having to hire or reject job applicants or employees because of their genetic information. You need to know about your family and medical history, and you may want to get tested for genetic diseases.

Cases of employment discrimination based on sex are not that common in the United States. We do, however, see a small number of such cases under the protections offered by the Gender-Neutral Antidiscrimination Act (GINA).

What is surprising is when we read this news story. “An estimated three million people in the United States are carriers of Tay-Sachs disease, a fatal genetic condition that attacks the nervous system,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

My Take…

Chris’s statement is clear above – there are many reasons why employers should look to hire people with disabilities. You might have to modify the job description in order to accommodate a person with a disability. However, when the accommodations are made it is a very effective recruitment tool for employers.

Not every employer has heard the message and not every company proactively encourages voluntary compliance with the law. It was passed in 1990 as part of the Rehabilitation Act. There is still more work to be done though, as it continues to remain a persistent problem in our society today.

There are many disability-based myths, fears, and stereotypes about people with disabilities that can hold back the business case for making the best use of diversity and inclusion practices. This number represents a significant percentage of the population.

Population, in addition to a large pool of untapped talent for employers in a competitive global marketplace. All companies should be aware of disability issues because it affects many aspects of their business, not just employment. It’s important that employers understand and recognize the many different holidays, national days and days of the week throughout the year.

But is it enough? “While it’s good to have awareness, employers also need to take steps to make sure it’s a priority.” — CK In essence, employers must take action to improve the employment situation for people with disabilities.

The business community should embrace proactive prevention, open communication, outreach, education and technical assistance to promote voluntary compliance with the ADA and avoid discrimination.

Employers who are discriminating against employees with disabilities may find themselves facing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation or lawsuits from employees.

It’s bad for employers and employees. It costs companies more money and is an unnecessary expense. Employees are negatively impacted by the lack of productivity and negative publicity.

Companies need to prioritize hiring disabled employees. It’s always better to do the right thing than to do the wrong thing.