According to a recent analysis by federal employment law firm Tully Rinckey PLLC, the Executive Branch is getting better at hiring disabled individuals, but there is still room for improvement.
Tuly Rinckey analyzed EEOC data to conduct the study. It found that total federal employee mental and physical disability discrimination complaints filed last fiscal year came down from their highs in 2010. There were 5,167 mental and physical disability discrimination complaints in fiscal year 2011, down 6% from the previous fiscal year.
However, mental and physical disability discrimination complaints were up 4% between 2006 and 2011, and several alleged issues in the complaints filed rose over the same time period, namely appointments and hires, terminations, disciplinary actions, reasonable accommodations, and harassment.
“These reports from OPM and EEOC show that the federal government can change for the better when it comes to hiring and properly treating disabled individuals,” said Tully Rinckey PLLC Partner Joanna F. Friedman. “But more change is necessary to combat major issues such as harassment, discriminatory terminations, and failures to provide reasonable accommodations.”
Ms. Friedman reminded federal employees that under the Rehabilitation Act:
- Federal agencies cannot discriminate against people with qualifying physical or mental handicaps that substantially limit at least one major life activity;
- Federal agencies must provide qualifying disabled individuals with reasonable accommodations, so long as such accommodations would help the individual perform major job functions and they do not impose an undue burden on the agency; and
- Examples of reasonable accommodations include job restructuring, part-time work schedules, provision of more accommodating equipment or devices, examination adjustments or modifications, and the provision of interpreters or readers.
In July 2010, President Obama issued an executive order designed to make disabled employees as represented within the federal workforce as they are in the general population. OPM reported last July that the number of disabled federal employees rose by 9% in FY 2011 to 204,189.