Work Accommodation for Disability in Federal Government

Executive Order 13548 of 2010 called on agencies to increase their efforts to hire persons deemed disabled and to retain them. It ordered strategies for recruiting and hiring, along with training for personnel offices and hiring managers on employment of people with disabilities and an increased emphasis on work accommodation for disabilities such as assistive technology and workplace alterations.

Individual agencies meanwhile were tasked with crafting plans for promoting employment opportunities, which could include greater use of the hiring authority for persons with disabilities considered severe.

The order also told agencies to make greater efforts to return to work persons who are injured on the job, including use of light-duty assignments and other accommodations. A November 8, 2010 memo on model agency strategies is at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals.

Further, under an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rule effective with calendar year 2018, agencies are required to take steps to achieve a target of having employees with disabilities make up 12 percent of their workforces, and to have those with severe disabilities make up 2 percent.

Disabled Veterans

A disabled veteran may be eligible to be considered under special federal employment hiring programs.

Work Accommodation for Severe Disability

Schedule A authorities at 5 CFR 213.3102(g) may be used to hire applicants with certain severe physical, intellectual or emotional disabilities or a history of having such disabilities or who are perceived as having such disabilities, as established by medical documentation provided by the individual or a disability certification. Eligible persons may be appointed without public notice and an agency may provide reasonable accommodations to help the individual perform the job. An agency may make an appointment on determining that the person is likely to succeed in performing the duties of the position, based on relevant employment, educational or other experience.

Schedule A hirees under permanent appointment can be converted non-competitively to the competitive civil service after two years of satisfactory performance in a permanent appointment. An agency may make a temporary assignment to allow an individual to prove job readiness and may convert that person to a permanent Schedule A appointment once it determines the individual is able to perform the duties of the position.

Workplace Accommodation

Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to engage in affirmative action for people with disabilities. An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rule at 5 CFR 1614 effective in 2018 consolidated prior requirements from several executive orders as well as EEOC directives and other EEOC guidance while adding certain new requirements.

The definition of “disability” for these purposes is the same as under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as are standards for determining whether a federal agency has discriminated on the basis of disability; see Discrimination, below. Federal job applicants and employees are not required to reveal any disabilities, although agencies may invite them to do so if the information is to be treated confidentially and used only for affirmative action.

The rule requires agencies to have written, easily available and understood reasonable accommodation procedures and a written explanation whenever a request for a reasonable accommodation is denied. It also requires agencies to have sufficient staff to answer disability-related questions from applicants and members of the public and to process requests for reasonable accommodations in the hiring process and applications under the Schedule A hiring authority for those with targeted disabilities.

Examples of workplace reasonable accommodation include: providing interpreters, readers, or other personal assistance; modifying job duties; restructuring work sites; providing flexible work schedules or work sites; and obtaining accessible technology or other workplace adaptive equipment.

It also requires agencies to inform job applicants and employees of their accessibility rights under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Architectural Barriers Act, and to explain how to file complaints under those laws.

The rule also specifies situations in which an agency is obligated to provide personal assistance services, which help with basic activities such as eating and using the restroom and which are separate from services that help the individual perform job-related tasks.

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