Federal Disability Hiring — The Road is Paved with Good Intentions, but We’re Still Waiting for the Numbers

Federal Disability Hiring — The Road is Paved with Good Intentions, but We’re Still Waiting for the Numbers

By Nicole Schultheis

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Let’s see where we are on this important subject.

On August 18, 2011, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order* establishing a new, government-wide initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce. Reiterating the Federal Government’s commitment to equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion, President Obama reminded us of our government’s special obligation to lead by example.

The coordinated effort means that U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director John Berry and Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Jeff Zients are to work together with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien and the President’s Management Council (PMC) to establish a government-wide initiative promoting diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce. Under the Order, by mid-November of this year, a government-wide strategic plan with guidance for agency-specific plans must be in place, setting forth best practices and establishing a method for agencies to report on their progress. By mid-December, federal agencies are to issue their own, specific Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plans, addressing recruitment, hiring, promotion, retention, professional development and training.

The more recent initiative follows on the heels of Executive Order 13548, “Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities,”** issued July 26, 2010, which required agencies to designate senior-level officials to create programs for individuals with disabilities and targeted disabilities, to increase use of the Federal Government’s Schedule A excepted service hiring authority for persons with disabilities, and to increase participation of individuals with disabilities in internships, fellowships, and training and mentoring programs. The “targeted disabilities” are set forth on Standard Form 256, and include total deafness, blindness, missing extremities and paralysis, among others deemed severe. (See last year’s blog entry by Kathryn Troutman on this subject, http://localhost/2010/10/its-national-disabilities-employment-awareness-month/.)

As part of the 2010 effort, OPM and OMB were to implement a system for regular reporting. The July 2010 Executive Order directed OPM to “compile and post on its website Government wide statistics on the hiring of individuals with disabilities.” Since then, although OPM has included on its “Federal Employment of People with Disabilities” site, http://www.opm.gov/disability/, a comprehensive list of links to federal agencies’ web pages dealing with disability employment as well as other organizations and publications related to the employment of people with disabilities—and among them appears a link to the US Census Bureau’s data on disability and employment nationally—it would appear neither EEOC nor OPM has published new statistics relating to the federal government’s own disability hiring numbers.

In FY 2009, the Federal Government reported a total work force of 2,811,277 employees, compared to 2,442,643 in FY 2000. The Annual Report on the Federal Work Force for Fiscal Year 2009 provided a 10- year retrospective on federal hiring statistics, compared to the overall civilian workforce. For this period EEOC reported little overall change in the composition of the federal workforce; indeed there was even a slight decline during that decade in targeted disability hiring, from 1.12% to 0.88% of the overall federal workforce. As of 2009, a total of approximately 25,000 persons with targeted disabilities held federal jobs. (Comparables in overall civilian workforce are not available.)

In August 2011, the Office of Disability Employment Policy reported a labor force participation rate of 21.0% for people with disabilities, compared to 69.9% of persons without reported disabilities. No comparable data was released by OPM or EEOC relative to the federal civilian workforce. Although the 2010 and 2011 Executive Orders relating to disability and diversity hiring are expected to significantly enhance opportunities for inclusion of persons with disabilities in the federal workforce, unfortunately it is still too soon to tell what impact these initiatives will have.

Perhaps we’ll know more by next year.

*The full text of “Establishing a Coordinated Government-Wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce,” is posted here.

**The full text of “Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities,” is posted here.

Nicole