The EEOC delivered the final rule on affirmative action for individuals with disabilities in federal employment—an amendment to Section 501 regulations. This rule further clarifies the affirmative action obligations in recruitment, retention, and advancement of qualified individuals with disabilities. According to the rule, federal agencies must utilize programs and resources that identify potential applicants with disabilities from voluntary pipeline databases or by partnering with vocational rehabilitation agencies, for example. Agency staff must be trained and fully supported to provide applicants with reasonable accommodations, answer disability related questions, and oversee hiring programs. The regulation also requires efforts to ensure employees with disabilities have sufficient opportunities for advancement, through relevant training and mentoring programs. To assist in these efforts, the EEOC will provide the proper training and technical assistance to agency staff.
The rule raised the utilization goal percentage of individuals with disabilities from 7% to 12%. Additionally, it introduces a sub-goal of 2% for individuals with “targeted disabilities.” The rule also requires federal government agencies to provide personal assistance services (PAS) for employees with disabilities. PAS is defined as “non-medical services that help someone perform basic activities like eating and using the restroom.”
This rule does not change reporting for federal agencies, as no applicant or employee is compelled to answer the disability self-identification form. The EEOC expects agencies to conduct yearly workforce analyses to track progress towards goals. Additionally, failing to meet the 12% or 2% goal does not mean the EEOC will disapprove an agency’s plan. The EEOC states that the reason for this increase is to provide more opportunities for individuals with disabilities and be a model employer. Along with empowering individuals with disabilities through the independence of employment, the EEOC believes that this ruling will reduce the amount of taxpayer funds allocated to disability benefits. Aiming for a timely implementation process, the rule will go into effect March 6, 2017, with an applicability date of January 3, 2018.
By Rachel Monroe, HR Analyst, and Macy Cheeks, HR Analyst, at DCI Consulting Group