Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Federal Administration Rule to Prevent Workplace Discrimination against Disabled

Last week, the country commemorated the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The federal legislation marked the anniversary by announcing a series of steps to give the disabled better access to employment, and to remove some of the traditional barriers that have prevented them from becoming a sizable part of the workforce.

President Obama has signed a new executive order under which federal agencies have been ordered to step up their efforts to hire disabled workers over the next few years. Agencies must hire 100,000 disabled employees. This is not exactly a new program. Ten years ago, President Bill Clinton had signed such an order, but the steps were not implemented. The administration now seeks to change that state of affairs.

The Office of Personnel Management must consult with the Labor Department, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Management and Budget to develop strategies for the recruitment and hiring of disabled workers. The strategy must be decided within a period of 60 days. Managers at government agencies must be trained in employing these workers. President Obama also announced that the Justice Department has written rules to ban discrimination against disabled workers by private businesses and government agencies. That's not all. Beginning in 2012, there'll be new standards for production and design that will be more disabled friendly, in order to encourage employment of the disabled. The design standards will extend to doors, windows, bathrooms and elevators.

Implementing these rules will be a huge challenge, as the Clinton administration found out. However, with the 20th anniversary of the ADA, California disability rights lawyers believe the time is right and the mood is perfect for changes that will accommodate more numbers of disabled workers in the American workforce. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, workers with certain disabilities constitute less than 1% of the workforce. These workers include those with some degree of mental retardation, blindness, deafness and paralysis. We need not just more anti-discrimination policies, but also more proactive action to accommodate these people in our workforce.

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