June 27th, 2012

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Review of ODEP Guide for Inclusion of People With Disabilities in the Workplace (Cont.)

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The ODEP hopes its new guide for inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace enables HR departments to stay organized in their recruiting and retention practices.

Section two of “Business Strategies That Work: A Framework for Inclusion,” entitled “Hire (And Keep) The Best: Personnel Processes” (PDF), gets to some of the thorny issues the U.S. Department of Labor is grappling with in its proposed rule that federal contractors strive for 7% of their workforce to be comprised of people with disabilities.

Since the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program suggested the measure in December, two of the primary concerns raised by companies have been violating the privacy rights of their employees and incurring additional costs associated with tracking the recruitment and hiring of people with disabilities.

In an effort to address the privacy issues, more and more advocates for people with disabilities are encouraging employees to self-identify as a person with disability. Back in May, we referenced a guest blog post by Mathew McCullough on Disability.gov that argues the practice of self-identification by individuals with disabilities is a sign of a strong workplace:

If they are willing to share information as sensitive as this, it means they feel safe and valued. This is important, as you are no doubt striving to have and maintain an environment that treats all of your employees with respect and dignity at all times. There is strength in diversity, and the programs that embrace this value will truly be inclusive of all employees…

“Business Strategies That Work” points out that businesses have been able to adopt a policy of self-identification “if the company is undertaking affirmative action for people with disabilities.” In a review of the proposed OFCCP rule for Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) published on Monday, HR consultant Lydell C. Bridgeford provides some guidelines for Human Resources departments to follow when implementing surveys requesting employers or applicants to self-identify.

Bridgeford looks to the advice of Janet Fiore, an employment disability consultant, for an important distinction with regards to the American with Disabilities Act, which has expanded the definitions of who qualifies as an individual with a disability over since it was originally passed. Fiore doesn’t deny that the OFCCP’s proposal needs some refinement; but she doesn’t see a conflict with the ADA, saying: “It’s never been precluded to ask for voluntary disclosure, but it has always been precluded to discriminate based on that.”

Section two also encourages businesses to work with local organizations that provide training and employment services for people with disabilities in a number of ways; from arranging practice interviews to internships and job mentoring programs. These organizations can impart their experiences working with individuals with disabilities, facilitating an easier transition for both the employer and the employee.

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Image by Alex Ford, used under its Creative Commons license.

One Response to “Review of ODEP Guide for Inclusion of People With Disabilities in the Workplace (Cont.)”

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