Workplace Initiative Weekly News Roundup: March 9, 2020

By Workplace Initiative Team
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Here are some highlights from this week’s news about disability inclusion in the workforce—and how you can use this information to make your company the best it can be.

What’s reported: Before graduating from law school, Haley Moss began searching for work. She soon found that many employers wanted to know if the people who applied had a disability.* 

“I’m autistic,” she writes in Fast Company, “so the answer is fairly obvious. Despite this, I’d find myself pausing when I came to this part on a job application, lightly hovering my mouse over the options.”

Her discomfort with the question led her to wonder when, how—and whether—to disclose her disability during the job search process.

According to Emily Shuman, deputy director of the Rocky Mountain ADA Center, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t require job applicants to disclose whether they have a disability on employment applications, during job interviews, or even when they’re hired. But employees and job seekers can make the choice to disclose a disability at any time. 

All decisions around disclosing a disability belong to the employee. The right answer will differ from person to person.

Moss chose disclosure, and she reports that it’s been a positive experience. She sees it not as a one-time event, but as a process that can shift depending on the audience and the situation. She writes, “The experience of disclosing the fact that I’m autistic made me feel determined to help shift the narrative so that there will be more disabled lawyers out there.”

What you can do: The question of whether to disclose a disability can be a stressful one. Employers can make it easier for employees to disclose their disabilities by creating an environment where employees feel safe, and by establishing a workplace culture that welcomes and honors diversity. 

*Moss’ situation is specific to people applying to work at companies that do business with the U.S. government. Federal contractors include this question on applications to comply with Section 503. They need to follow the associated regulations, which include keeping any self-disclosure information confidential. Employers subject to the ADA can’t ask a job applicant whether they have a disability.

What’s reported: Prestige Care and Prestige Senior Living will pay $2 million to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

According to the lawsuit, the companies, based in Vancouver, Washington, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by requiring employees to perform job duties without reasonable accommodations. And their inflexible leave policies led them to discharge employees with disabilities.

In addition to the payment, the companies agreed to hire an external monitor to help them fix their policies and procedures. They’ve also agreed to put coordinators in place to manage accommodation requests and discrimination complaints.

What you can do: Make sure your business is ADA compliant. Understand the requirements that apply to your business. Provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, and promote a workplace atmosphere where people feel comfortable about disclosing their disabilities.

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What’s reported: Job gains for people with disabilities have fallen dramatically in recent years. That’s according to the Disability Statistics Compendium, a report released by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. 

A new RespectAbility analysis of the report data shows that new jobs for people with disabilities totaled 343,000 nationwide in 2016. But by 2018, those numbers dropped to only 29,893 new jobs, according to the analysis.

The data also shows that the job gains for people with disabilities varied widely from state to state. Arizona saw the largest uptick in 2018. Florida also saw big gains, in line with their track record. The report credits Florida’s success to a dedicated state agency that tracks written agreements and specific goals.

What you can do: Your company can work to close the employment gap. State agencies can help employers to find resources for workplace disability inclusion. 

Also, consider Florida’s example. How can your company document its disability inclusion goals to encourage accountability?

What’s reported: Six more companies have joined The Valuable 500 commitment to disability inclusion. They include Audi, Mastercard, and Kenya-based tech company Safaricom.

Michael Joseph, interim CEO of Safaricom, emphasized the company’s commitment to “drive the disability inclusion agenda in the communities it serves,” according to Mobile World Live

The Valuable 500 is a global call for business leaders to focus on disability inclusion. Over 250 companies have joined the pledge to put disability inclusion on their agendas. The Valuable 500 seeks to get 500 CEOs of the world’s leading companies to commit by September 2020. The final 500 companies will be announced at the United Nations General Assembly.

The Valuable 500’s founder, Caroline Casey, says that tech companies like Safaricom have a vital role to play in disability inclusion: “From ensuring accessibility … to actively embracing the positive potential of incorporating neurodiversity into the talent pool.”

What you can do: If you represent a large private-sector corporation, you can advocate for your company to join The Valuable 500

And big companies aren’t the only ones that can pledge to embrace disability inclusion. Businesses of any size can make the commitment to actively recruit and hire employees with disabilities, and work to create inclusive workplaces