EEOC Wants Ideas on How to Improve Federal Hiring of Disabled People

Minerva Studio/

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is seeking public feedback on how to help the government do a better job of hiring and retaining individuals with disabilities.

EEOC regulations offer a “detailed explanation” of the standards determining whether an agency has violated the law that governs federal employment of individuals with disabilities, but they need to clarify the government’s responsibilities with respect to hiring and promoting disabled candidates and employees, stated a notice published in Thursday’s Federal Register.

The government has an “obligation to be a model employer of individuals with disabilities,” the notice said, soliciting public comments on how the EEOC can amend its regulations to explain what that obligation means to agencies, and how it relates to their “nondiscrimination or affirmative action obligations.” The EEOC is “concerned that, without more guidance, agencies may not fulfill their obligations under the [1973] Rehabilitation Act,” said Peggy Mastroianni, in the EEOC’s Office of Legal Counsel.

The feedback, due by July 14, will be used to craft proposed rules amending regulations related to Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Specifically, the EEOC is looking for input on seven questions posed in the notice, including the kind of barriers that currently exist in recruiting, retaining and promoting disabled individuals in the federal government, and whether the government should establish annual goals for hiring disabled candidates. The notice also asked whether there should be “consequences” for federal agencies that fail to meet the eventual goals.

It’s not clear why the EEOC is soliciting feedback on the matter right now. President Obama in 2010 issued an executive order directing federal agencies to improve their efforts to hire and retain individuals with disabilities, and “targeted” disabilities as defined by the EEOC; the order included a goal to hire 100,000 people with disabilities into federal service over five years. Mastroianni said that updating the regulations related to Section 501 “will support implementation” of Obama’s executive order.

The federal government employed 203,694 people with disabilities at the end of fiscal 2011, and increased that total to 219,975 by the end of fiscal 2012, according to a December 2013 report from the Office of Personnel Management. New hires with disabilities grew from 14.65 percent in fiscal 2011 to 16.31 percent in fiscal 2012, the report said.

Hyacinth Clarke, an associate at federal sector labor and employment law firm Tully Rinckey in Washington, said the solicitation of input now could be related to the growing number of veterans entering the workforce, many of whom have mental or physical disabilities related to their service. “The government is in the best position to be the model employer,” Clarke said, adding that she has worked with vets who have a documented disability from the Veterans Affairs Department, but who still have to prove that disability to the federal agency when they apply for a job – an often lengthy process.

Clarke said there likely hasn’t been more specific guidance to date because “each disability and each agency’s needs are so unique that you have no choice but to look at it on a case-by-case basis.” Still, there is more the EEOC can do to formalize the process, Clarke pointed out. She said the current process for accommodating disabled employees can be inefficient. One of her clients, a disabled federal employee who had an ergonomic chair, was transferring within the agency to a different location, and had to go through the whole process again to secure reasonable accommodation at the new location. “Is it really in the best interest of the agency’s time and resources to prove that?”

Clarke, a disabled Army veteran who has worked at several federal agencies, including the EEOC, said agencies also should revisit their telework policies. Often, they do not differentiate between requests from employees who want to telework for convenience, from those who need to because of a disability. Clarke also said the November 2002 list of targeted disabilities as defined by EEOC “desperately needs to be updated.”

Obama, through executive orders and other actions, has repeatedly said he wants the federal government to be a model employer when it comes to diversity and pay parity.

(Image via Minerva Studio/

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.