Only 19.3% of disabled Americans are employed compared with 66.3% of the general population, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. One reason may be an employer’s hesitation to hire employees with disabilities for fear of expensive ADA accommodations or compliance regulations.
Don’t let fear keep you from exploring this abundant talent pool. If you’re interested in employing those with disabilities, look no further. We’ve answered FAQs to help you remain compliant and put your mind at ease.
Q: How does the federal government define “disability?”
A: The concept of “disability” is defined by context. For employers, a person with a disability is someone who:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more “major life activity”
- Has a record of such an impairment
- Or is regarded as having such an impairment
While this does not apply to short-term impairments of six months or less, it can include impairments for which symptoms do not necessarily appear consistently, such as epilepsy or various mental health conditions.
Q: What are the advantages of hiring employees with disabilities?
A: The advantages of hiring disabled workers are the same as those for hiring anyone—adding great people to your team! A willingness to employ those with disabilities also means you have the potential to choose from a wider talent pool, add new perspectives to your organization and benefit from various tax credits.
Q: What tax credits are available when hiring disabled employees?
A: There are several possible tax incentives available for companies who hire people with disabilities.
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) provides one-time tax incentives for hiring individuals from groups who face significant barriers to employment, including veterans, SSI recipients and those who have completed a Vocational Rehabilitation program. The maximum available credit can be as much as $9,600.
The Disabled Access Credit provides credits to small businesses (earning $1 million or less or having no more than 30 full time employees) so that they can provide access to workers with disabilities.
The Architectural and Transportation Barrier Removal Tax Deduction allows deductions of up to $15,000 per year for businesses of any size who remove barriers—architectural or transportation—which limit the mobility of the disabled or elderly.
Q: What are some best practices for creating a disability-inclusive recruitment process?
A: Start by making sure your hiring process isn’t biased against those with disabilities. Job seekers whose applications include references to disabilities—even those that will have no impact on their capacity to fulfill the job for which they are applying—are 26% less likely to be invited for an interview, according to a Rutgers University study. Using interview scorecards (as found in Paycor Recruiting) can help improve subjectivity, fairness, and consistency throughout the interview process.
It’s also important to make your hiring process accessible—this could apply to where you advertise jobs for people with disabilities, the ease-of-use of your website and any locations where you hold interviews. Here’s a great question to answer right now: Is your website accessible for the visually impaired? If not, fines and penalties may be right around the corner.
You can also try using alternative methods to find potential candidates. Paycor Smart Sourcing leverages AI to identify diverse talent and boost their participation in the hiring pipeline without offering preferential treatment.
Additionally, all staff involved in recruiting and hiring should be educated on the importance of accessibility and what is required to stay compliant (see below).
Q: What are the legal obligations of employers when it comes to hiring people with disabilities?
A: The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is the most important piece of federal legislation prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities. Title 1 of the ADA prohibits discrimination in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, compensation, promotions, training, and benefits. To commemorate the signing of the ADA, we celebrate National Disability Independence Day on July 26.
Q: Does the ADA apply to all companies?
A: No, the ADA (and ADAAA) does not apply to private companies with less than 15 employees.
Q: How is the ADA enforced?
A: Enforcement of workplace anti-discrimination legislation is the responsibility of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If a company is accused of discriminating against a disabled employee, they may face EEOC penalties. The EEOC also provides assistance for employers seeking to comply with anti-discrimination legislation.
Q: What does the ADA require of companies?
A: Companies may not discriminate against job applicants or employees with disabilities. Job applicants cannot be refused because of a disability, while employees may not be segregated, harassed, or fired on the basis of disability.
Furthermore, companies are required to provide reasonable ADA accommodations to the needs of disabled applicants and employees. This can mean making offices accessible, providing specialist equipment, or making exceptions to workplace rules. Even if requests for such assistance seem impractical or too expensive, companies must at least consider the request—and may be able to apply to benefit from special funding in order to help disabled applicants and employees (see below).
Q: What are companies not required to do?
A: Companies are not required to fulfil requests that would fundamentally alter the nature of the job, lower production or performance standards or incur significant difficulty or expense. Whether or not providing assistance is too difficult/expensive is decided on a case-by-case basis, considering company size and resources. If assistance is deemed to be an undue burden, employers must attempt to find an alternative solution as well as giving the relevant employee the option of providing the missing funds themselves.
Q: What are some common challenges that people with disabilities face in the workplace?
A: People with disabilities can encounter several challenges in the workplace such as:
- Physical barriers, such as inaccessible facilities or workstations, that make it difficult for those with mobility impairments to navigate their workplaces comfortably.
- Technology and communication systems may not be universally designed or compatible with assistive technologies, making it challenging for individuals with sensory or cognitive disabilities to effectively perform their duties.
- They can encounter bias, prejudice, or ignorance from coworkers and management, leading to social isolation and limited career advancement opportunities.
- Company policies and procedures might not be inclusive, making it difficult for disabled employees to access accommodations, benefits, or flexible work options.
- Lack of awareness or understanding of disability rights, leading to unintentional discrimination or inadequate support.
Q: Does the ADA force companies to hire disabled workers?
A: No, the ADA does not give preference to candidates with disabilities. The only obligation on companies is that they consider applicants on their merits, and don’t discriminate based on disability.
Q: What can’t I ask while interviewing a person with disabilities?
A: During an interview process—until a job offer is made—you cannot ask an applicant questions about whether they have a disability, even if such a disability is obvious.
You may ask about whether an applicant may need extra assistance with or changes made to the application process, work environment or how the job is done (if you have a reasonable belief that a reasonable accommodation may be required).
An employer is however permitted to ask applicants to voluntarily report whether they have a disability, but only for the purposes of an affirmative action program.
Q: What can I ask after the hiring process?
A: Once a conditional offer is submitted, it is permitted to ask disability-related questions and conduct medical examinations but only if these are asked of all new employees of the same category.
Once a candidate is employed, disability-related questions and medical examinations are allowed if job-related and necessary from a business perspective.
Q: How can companies measure the impact of disability inclusion on their business?
A: One way to measure the impact of disability inclusion is through performance metrics, comparing productivity and quality of work across teams, with a focus on teams with diverse abilities. You can also conduct employee engagement surveys (like Paycor’s Pulse Surveys) to understand the sentiments of both disabled and non-disabled employees towards the company’s inclusivity policies. An analysis of the recruitment and retention rates of disabled employees compared to overall workforce trends can also provide insight into the effectiveness of your inclusion strategies. Finally, you can measure the impact of disability inclusion through your company’s reputation and brand image in the market, which could be measured through consumer surveys, stakeholder feedback, and online sentiment analysis.
Hiring people with disabilities is a win-win for everyone. Employers can benefit from hiring people with disabilities by tapping into a large and diverse pool of talent, while people with disabilities can benefit from the opportunity to work and contribute.
Ready to take the next step in creating an inclusive and diverse workplace? Check out Paycor Smart Sourcing, Recruiting, and Pulse Surveys to gauge employee sentiment and streamline your hiring process to attract and engage top talent, including candidates with disabilities. Sign up for a demo today.