ERASING HIRING BARRIERS FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES
Unemployment rates in the general population are twice as high for people with disabilities as for the remainder of the population, according to the US Department of Labor. This pool of potentially qualified individuals can help staff-starved state and local governments, but education, training, and state policy changes are needed to remove potentially discriminatory barriers.
“This is a nonpartisan issue. We’ve got states on the right and on the left and in the middle,” says Eve Hill, legislative counsel for Concepts, Inc., which contracts with the US Department of Labor to manage the State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED). “People with disabilities have traditionally been unemployed and underemployed at disproportionate rates. They’re out there. They’re looking for work. They’re prepared and qualified to work. It’s just been discrimination that has prevented them from working.”
At 2 p.m. (eastern time) on Tuesday, January 16, Hill will be presenting some of the ways that governments can combat past discrimination through a webinar focused on making state government “A Model Employer of People with Disabilities.” This is the link to register.
In the webinar, Hill will discuss policies that have already been implemented in selected states or local governments and can provide a model. Based on a conversation we had last week with Hill and colleague, Katia Albanese at Concepts, Inc., here’s a sampling of policy approaches.
Setting Goals, supported by data tracking to measure progress. Minnesota, for example, has a 10% hiring goal. (The federal government’s goal is 12%.) Establishing a goal in state policy requires doing the work “to find out what your baseline is and to track, on an annual basis, how you’re making progress,” says Hill. “And that leads you to implementing additional policies that can support that goal.”
Mandating Interviews. To ensure that qualified individuals with certified disabilities are not ruled out before the interview process, this policy requires that they are given an interview so that individuals can explain how their disability affects them and “how they’re going to be good at the job.” Vermont, Kentucky and Maryland all have established mandatory interview processes.
Centralizing Accommodation Funds. Often agencies are fearful that their budget will be adversely affected by accommodation costs for individuals with disabilities. Having a centralized fund, and centralized expertise, which have been established by both Massachusetts and Minnesota, can take away the fear of a hiring agency about hiring someone with a disability.
Hill and Albanese also mentioned ways that states and local governments can encourage improved performance for the general workforce through incentives – such as a tax incentive recently implemented in Tacoma, Washington – and through education and training programs.
The SEED program works with a number of state and local partners: The Board of Latino Legislative Leaders; Council of State Governments; CSG West; National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women; National Association of State Chief Administrators; National Association of State Personnel Executives; National Caucus of Native American State Legislators; National Governors Association; National Black Caucus of State Legislators; National Conference of State Legislatures; National League of Cities; Quad Caucus; US Conference of Mayors; Western Governors’ Association; Women In Government, and Women's Legislative Network of NCSL.
Concepts Inc., also has several publicly available resources focused on the State As a Model Employer program, including the Work Matters Policy Framework and the State as a Model Employer: Policies and Practices for State Leaders report.
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