U.S. Labor Department’s Director of Compliance Patricia Shiu says it’s time for federal contractors to hire more individuals with disabilities. NOD’s Disability Employee Tracker can help companies employ typically non-traditional talent.
By Tamika Cody
The onus is on federal contractors to meet a 7 percent employment goal within their companies for people with disabilities — and, at the very least, companies are required to show progress toward meeting that goal.
There are several tasks a federal contractor must complete to stay in line with Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, and while the U.S. Department of Labor considered 2015 a transition period for companies to get up to speed, Patricia Shiu, Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, said last month that “the waiting period is over.”
During the Corporate Forum in Washington, D.C., Shiu said it is unlikely federal contractors will be sanctioned for not meeting the 7 percent mark because that goal is aspirational. “This is a process and not a switch,” Shiu said when she delivered her remarks. “Failure to achieve the 7 percent [goal] is not a violation but the failure to try probably is.”
Since quotas are not legal, Carol Glazer, President of the National Organization on Disability, said that in order for federal contractors to move toward attaining the 7 percent goal they must be very aware of what they are doing and how they are doing it. Glazer suggests utilizing a system to track applicants and hires with disabilities. “You have to keep that on file,” said Glazer. “You have to assess your practices to see how you’re doing. And you have to invite people to self identify voluntarily.”
According to Glazer, companies must first review their current policies and practices, which should be done through projective measures.
Take the NOD Disability Employment Tracker as an example. It’s a free, confidential, online self-assessment tool that gives 40 questions, as well as 20 optional questions on veterans. “You get back a report on how you’re doing in the major areas of your disabilities inclusion,” Glazer said. “This is a very good place to start.”
Several companies use the tool to promote new practices, which Glazer said is easy to use and designed to work with organizations of all sizes. “It’s good for companies that are not familiar with the various recruiting and sourcing agencies within the network of disability organizations.”
And for companies that would like to attain in-depth guidance and deeper analysis of their best practices, Glazer said the NOD could conduct a full briefing based on the results from the tracker for a fee. “You will see how you benchmark against a pool of companies that used the tracker, and we will provide recommendations to you for improvements in many different areas.”
In addition to NOD’s Disability Employment Tracker, Glazer recommends the following resources that federal contractors and companies can use to increase their disability inclusion efforts:
- Cornell University is developing a tool kit that will offer an overview of practices and policies
- The Department of Labor has great online tools
- The Job Accommodation Network provides a range of personnel policies related to disability inclusion and accommodation. “Unlike its name, it goes beyond simply accommodation,” Glazer said.
- OFCCP has basic tools to really help companies get going
“If you’re serious about taking positive steps and want to increase the workforce and include people with disabilities, a lot of these online tools will be the first step but not enough,” Glazer said.
She also suggests federal contractors turn to the U.S. Business Leadership Network, which provides tools and benchmarking advice that will help contractors get to the next level and meet that 7 percent hiring goal.