Federal Level of Employees with Disabilities Reaches High
Last month, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a report that announced the level of disabled workers in the federal government is higher than it has been in the 34 years that the statistic has been tracked.
The report, which covers up until September 2014, revealed that federal agencies hired almost 72,000 full-time permanent employees with disabilities, increasing the total amount of federal employees with disabilities to 248,000. This number, along with the percentage of disabled employees as part of the federal workforce being 13.6 percent, mark all-time highs for the federal government (since the statistic started being measured in 1980). Almost 20 percent of the more than 100,000 federal hires in 2014 were disabled, keeping the government close to on track to meet President Obama’s stated goal (made in 2010) to increase the number of disabled hires by the federal government by 100,000 in 5 years.
Moreover, the report also indicated that federal agencies are taking steps to ensure that the new disabled hires have ample opportunities to advance up the federal employee ranks. More than 15 percent of the new disabled hires in 2014 were at the GS levels 14 and 15, while approximately one-quarter of the GS-14 or higher positions in the federal government are currently being filled by employees with a disability.
The number of disabled hires reflects a trend change in the 21st century, as the percentage of disabled employees within the federal government stayed close to 7 or 8 percent for the first twenty years the statistic was tracked. Since 2000, however, the numbers have steadily increased and have seen a sharp uptick since President Obama’s goal was stated in 2010.
For managers in the federal government, the sharp increase in hires of employees with disabilities presents a certain set of challenges and opportunities. To make sure that your office is optimally equipped to handle new hires with disabilities, OPM has a series of recommendations posted on its website. These guidelines will help make sure your office or division meets every reasonable accommodation standard.
The recommendations (here) include imploring managers to:
- Strive to make every aspect of the agency employment experience accessible to people with disabilities. This includes facilities, programs, technology, websites, and the benefits and privileges of employment. Set targets and measure progress in meeting them.
- Ensure employees with disabilities are provided training opportunities at the beginning and throughout their careers. Agencies must provide reasonable accommodations in a timely manner to ensure all training programs are accessible.
- Use and publicize workplace flexibility strategies such as telework, flexiplace, and flextime, including the availability of these flexibilities for people requiring reasonable accommodations, to enhance employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
- Conduct appropriate succession planning that includes a strategy to recruit and retain people with disabilities for positions and career paths in which they are interested. Where staff input is sought, provide entry- and mid-level employees with disabilities an opportunity to be included when planning for the agency's future management and leadership.
There are other guidelines on OPM’s website as well. For managers, these can be a resource as the challenges of overseeing an office increase. Following the OPM guidelines will also help to protect yourself in the event of an EEO or hostile workplace environment claim, as a pattern or evidence on non-discrimination will be valuable in the event of an allegation.
Another way to protect yourself against an allegation would be to purchase a professional liability insurance policy from Federal Employee Defense Services (FEDS). A PLI policy will provide you with legal representation and indemnity in the event of a job-related civil, administrative or criminal action brought against you. With up to $1 million in coverage for civil actions and $200,000 for administrative actions, FEDS is the coverage you need at a price you can afford. To learn more about FEDS, call 866.955.FEDS or visit www.fedsprotection.com.
FEDS $1,000,000 policy is available for $290 per year. All federal managers are eligible for reimbursement up to half the cost of this insurance for a net premium of $145 annually. You can enroll over the phone M-F 8:30 am – 6pm at 866.955.FEDS or anytime at www.fedsprotection.com.
FEDS provides professional liability insurance for the entire federal management community. For information on your specific exposures, how professional liability insurance protects you, or how the FEDS program differs from other insurance programs, visit us at fedsprotection.com.
Posted in Manager Matters