Did you know that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)? Led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), NDEAM is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. The theme of this year’s campaign is "A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?"

As an Employer, What CAN You Do?

ODEP offers a number of ways employers can affirm their commitment to employees with disabilities during NDEAM including:

  • Review Policies. NDEAM is an opportune time to review your company's policies to ensure they convey a commitment to an inclusive workplace culture.

  • Train Supervisors. Supervisors are the individuals closest to an organization's workforce. As part of NDEAM, consider conducting training to ensure they understand their role in fostering an inclusive workplace culture.

  • Educate Employees. It is critical that companies committed to disability inclusion effectively and regularly reinforce that commitment to employees. NDEAM offers an opportunity to do this through disability training or informal educational events such as brown-bag lunch discussions.

… And What MUST You Do?  Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to employers of 15 or more employees and prohibits discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, such as hiring, firing, pay, training, fringe benefits and promotions. Among its responsibilities under the ADA, a covered employer must:

  • Understand What a Disability Is. An individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.

  • Recognize When Disability Discrimination Occurs. Disability discrimination occurs when a covered employer treats a qualified employee or applicant with a disability unfavorably because she has a disability, or treats an applicant or employee less favorably because she has a history of a disability or because she is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory and minor.

  • Prohibit Harassment in the Workplace. Under the ADA, it is illegal to harass an applicant or employee because he has a disability, had a disability in the past, or is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory and minor.

  • Provide Reasonable Accommodations. A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment (or in the way things are usually done) to help a person with a disability apply for a job, perform the duties of a job, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment. Employers covered by the ADA are required to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.

 

Employers of all sizes should also ensure they are compliant with applicable state laws prohibiting discrimination against employees.

Free Guidance and Resources

Employers can learn more about their obligations to their employees with disabilities at the touch of a button. Check out the following resources:

 

Need Even More Information?

ODEP offers a wealth of resources and information on how employers can recruit, retain and advance people with disabilities in the workplace during NDEAM or at any time of the year. Our section on Disability Discrimination is a must-read for employers subject to the ADA.

 

And now would be a good time to download our FREE Federal Labor Laws by Company Size Guide—a great reference for keeping on top of the ADA and other federal employment laws that may apply to your company!

 

Image Credit: buddawiggi 

 

Topics: Human Resources, Recruitment and Hiring, Discrimination

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