Federal Hiring of People with Disabilities Continues to Disappoint

Washington, DC – The federal government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently released Fiscal Year 2013 data on the hiring of people with disabilities in the government’s workforce. Once again, the report demonstrates that hiring of people with targeted disabilities, including intellectual disability (ID), continues to lag, and the federal government is missing an opportunity to be a model employer of people with disabilities.

“While the last few years have seen some modest increases in the numbers of people with disabilities employed by the federal government, The Arc remains deeply concerned that many people with the most significant disabilities, including jobseekers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are being left behind. The federal government should implement the strategies the Department of Labor has laid out to meet their goal, and that should involve working with organizations like The Arc, with our nearly 700 chapters across the country, to proactively fill job openings with people with disabilities qualified for a variety of positions open in our government,” said Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc.

The federal government, through the Department of Labor, has initiated a new effort to increase the number of people with disabilities employed by entities that contract with the government, asking contractors to aspire to a goal of 7 percent of their workforce with disabilities. In explaining why there is a need to step up hiring of people with disabilities, the Department of Labor has stated: “A substantial disparity in the employment rate of individuals with disabilities continues to persist despite years of technological advancements that have made it possible for people with disabilities to apply for and successfully perform a broad array of jobs.” Meanwhile, in Fiscal Year 2013, the federal government only hired 1,389 people with targeted disabilities, representing 1.32 percent of new hires overall. The category of targeted disabilities includes people with intellectual disability (ID).

One factor in the federal hiring picture is the congressionally mandated budget cuts known as sequestration. These cuts forced federal agencies to put in place furloughs, hiring freezes, and reduce overtime. These budget cuts have trickled down to impact hiring of all new employees, including people with disabilities. Several federal agencies, however, have used their Schedule A hiring authority to make hiring people with disabilities a priority. The Schedule A process is a non-competitive hiring method that provides people with disabilities a path to federal employment.

“The numbers demonstrate that successful employment for people with disabilities is doable with the Schedule A process. Agencies that haven’t used this tool in their toolbox should look to their peers for guidance on how to improve their outreach, in addition to utilizing the competitive process to reach people with disabilities that match the skill sets needed for job opportunities,” said Berns.

The agencies that have demonstrated willingness to hire via with Schedule A include the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Treasury Department. However, 14 agencies hired no people using this hiring authority in 2013, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Trade Commission, and Department of Housing and Urban Development, which each made over 100 new hires but none through Schedule A.

One federal agency that The Arc has recently partnered with to boost the number of people with intellectual disability employed is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). They have hired five individuals at GS3 and GS4 levels with the opportunity to be promoted to a GS5.

In July, The Arc submitted comments to the EEOC calling on the federal government to become a model employer of people with disabilities, including individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“While we are pleased that the EEOC is moving forward with strengthening federal regulations, the shockingly low rate of federal employment of people with intellectual disability persists. Agencies can act now to step up their efforts,” said Berns.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly reports that the percentage of working-age people with disabilities in the labor force is about one-third that of persons with no disability. On average, workers with disabilities face significant gaps in pay and compensation, compared to workers with no disability. Additionally, about one in three employment discrimination charges filed with the EEOC allege discrimination on the basis of disability (often, in combination with charges of other types of discrimination).

The Arc’s own research suggests that the employment picture for people with I/DD may be even bleaker. In 2010, The Arc conducted a national online survey, called the FINDS Survey, to obtain perceptions of people with I/DD and their families on a range of life-span issues. Over 5,000 people participated. Only 15 percent of FINDS survey respondents reported that their family member with an intellectual and/or developmental disability was employed.

The Arc Calls on the Federal Government to Hire More People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Washington, DC – Yesterday, The Arc submitted comments to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) calling on the federal government to become a model employer of people with disabilities, including individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“While the last few years have seen some modest increases in the numbers of people with disabilities employed by the federal government, The Arc remains deeply concerned that many people with the most significant disabilities, including jobseekers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are being left behind,” said Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc.

Data obtained by The Arc from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reveal that in fiscal year 2012, the federal government employed only 813 non-seasonal, full time permanent employees with intellectual disability (ID), representing 0.044% of all federal employees.   Only 28 people, or 3/100ths of one-percent of total new hires, were people with ID.  That same year, the federal government employed only 118 part-time employees with ID.  Only 17 people with ID were hired as part-time employees, about 9/100ths of one-percent of new hires.

“While we are pleased that the EEOC is moving forward with strengthening federal regulations, the shockingly low rate of federal employment of people with intellectual disability is unacceptable. The Arc calls on the federal government to act immediately to remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities in the federal workforce, establish strong goals for hiring of people with disabilities, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and hold agencies accountable for meeting those goals.

“There is no need for OPM to wait for the EEOC to complete the rulemaking process before it takes action to address this problem.  OPM already has authority under existing law and under Executive Order 13548 to take action now,” Berns said.

Issued by President Obama on July 26, 2010, E.O. 13548, titled “Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities,” calls on the Federal Government to hire 100,000 people with disabilities over five years.

“As a first step, OPM should direct federal agencies to update and revise the “agency-specific plans for promoting employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities” required under the Executive Order so that they specifically address employment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. There are other steps that can be taken today.   The Federal Communications Commission has already embarked on an initiative to hire people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in that agency.  Other agencies should get started too.

“Across the United States, The Arc has nearly 700 state and local chapters in 49 states and DC that stand ready to assist the federal government in identifying people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are ready to work and whose abilities will be an asset to federal agencies. The federal government can and should be a model employer of people with disabilities. The Arc will continue to closely monitor annual reports on the federal employment of people with disabilities to ensure progress and accountability,” said Berns.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly reports that the percentage of working-age people with disabilities in the labor force is about one-third that of persons with no disability. On average, workers with disabilities face significant gaps in pay and compensation, compared to workers with no disability. Additionally, about one in three employment discrimination charges filed with the EEOC allege discrimination on the basis of disability (often, in combination with charges of other types of discrimination).

The Arc’s own research suggests that the employment picture for people with I/DD may be even bleaker. In 2010, The Arc conducted a national online survey, called the FINDS Survey, to obtain perceptions of people with I/DD and their families on a range of life-span issues. Over 5,000 people participated. Only 15% of FINDS survey respondents reported that their family member with an intellectual and/or developmental disability was employed.

The Arc Reacts to Historic Verdict on Behalf of Workers with Intellectual Disabilities

Washington, DC – Earlier this week a Davenport, Iowa jury awarded damages totaling $240 million to 32 men with intellectual and developmental disabilities who worked for Henry’s Turkey Service in Atalissa for decades.  It was the largest verdict in the history of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which filed the case, for disability discrimination and unlawful harassment.  Just one day after hearing closing arguments, the jury agreed with the EEOC that Henry’s Turkey Service subjected the men to severe harassment and discrimination that warranted punitive and compensatory damages for each man.

“While this verdict is a victory for the workers who can feel triumph knowing that the abuse they faced did not go unpunished, it’s also a harsh reminder to the disability movement that we must continue to be vigilant in this modern era of progressive employment practices to guard against these kinds of atrocities.  The abuse of these men didn’t end decades ago – it was still going on as recently as 2009, and that is unacceptable.  I applaud the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for their pursuit of justice for people with disabilities in the workplace and urge them to continue this important work. Individuals with disabilities have the right to work in a safe work environment free of exploitation, and this verdict sends a message that this kind of abuse will not be tolerated,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Last year, EEOC claimed that Henry’s Turkey Service violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by paying 32 workers with intellectual disabilities severely substandard wages.  The company denied the workers their full wages by claiming a “credit” for substandard living conditions.  In September 2012, a district court judge ordered the company to pay its former employees a total of $1.3 million for jobs they performed at a turkey processing plant in West Liberty, Iowa between 2007 and 2009 for about 41 cents an hour.  Combining last year’s ruling and this week’s verdict, the total judgment in this case is $241.3 million.

The Arc of California Statement on EEOC Lawsuit against Local Placer County Chapter

Sacramento, CA – In response to the news that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Placer ARC over allegations from 2008 that the organization did not provide a certified American Sign Language interpreter for a deaf employee, The Arc of California released the following statement:

“Chapters of The Arc are committed to our shared mission of promoting and protecting the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community.  In the course of their operations, they must comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including those applicable to employment practices.

“Through their programs, supports, and services, Placer ARC is making a difference in the lives of the people it serves.  While disputes with current or former employees may arise with any nonprofit or for-profit business organization, we hope that this matter dating back to 2008 can be resolved quickly and fairly for all involved.

“As Placer ARC’s executive director, Barbara Guenther, has publicly stated, Placer ARC is committed to adhering to all laws and regulations in regard to their employment practices as well as services for the people they serve,” said Tony Anderson, Executive Director of The Arc of California.

Discrimination in the Workplace – Has It Happened to You?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is taking up a troubling employer discrimination lawsuit. Jason O’Dell of Maryland applied for work as a lab technician through a major national employment agency. The opportunity seemed promising, but shortly after disclosing his Asperger’s diagnosis, the lawsuit states that Jason was told that the position was “on hold.” But the agency allegedly kept on recruiting to fill the job.

So the federal government stepped in and slapped a lawsuit against the firm, called Randstad. Since this is a huge, national employment agency, The Arc wants to know – has anyone out there had a similar experience with the company? We can’t allow discrimination like this to be tolerated.

Share your story with us in the comments, or email Kristen Bossi at bossi@thearc.org.