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Frequently Asked Questions Employment

Disability Employment

  • Once any necessary accommodations are made to help the employee with a disability function on the job, no other special consideration need be made. As with a non-disabled employee, an employee with a disability must be evaluated according to the items in his/her annual performance plan or agreement. As with any other employee, direct and honest feedback aimed at improving performance is always appropriate. For more information on employee performance management see OPM's Performance Management Technical Center.
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  • Contact your human resources office for advice and assistance on hiring people with disabilities. Your personnel specialist will be able to advise supervisors and managers on the different avenues available to recruit and hire qualified candidates, including individuals with disabilities. If your organization has designated a Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Manager or a Selective Placement Coordinator, these individuals can serve to connect you and your HR specialist with interested candidates. Take advantage of all the resources in your agency.
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  • All denials of reasonable accommodation requests must be made in writing, and the decision must specify the reason for the denial. The denial should be written in plain language, clearly stating the specific reasons for the denial. After denying a request, the individual must be informed that s/he has the right to file an EEO complaint, has the right to pursue any applicable union grievance and informal alternative dispute resolution.
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  • It is good business to hire from a potentially underutilized source of outstanding workers. People with disabilities represent one such resource. The practice of looking to qualified people with disabilities as a hiring resource applies equally to private industry and to public sector employment. The following excerpt from Craig Gray’s article in the September 2000 issue of Executive Online illustrates this point. "Many businesses are learning that workers with disabilities are not only meeting expectations in the workforce, but also exceed them. Employees with disabilities are helping companies learn how to most effectively relate to customers with disabilities and their families and friends. As an added bonus, hiring employees with disabilities has provided many employers with the knowledge and experience to help lower their overall cost of time lost to temporary disabilities experienced by the rest of their staffs." President Bush recognized the value of full participation of people with disabilities in America’s workforce. In his New Freedom Initiative, announced in February, 2001, he stated his commitment to " tearing down the remaining barriers to equality that face Americans with disabilities" and declaring his intention to "… increase the ability of Americans with disabilities to integrate into the workforce." For more information on the advantages of hiring persons with disabilities, see Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations website.
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  • The date the regulation goes into effect is 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
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  • If you believe your performance has been unfairly evaluated because of your disability, you should talk with your supervisor about his/her appraisal of your performance to resolve the matter. You may also obtain advice on how to seek redress from the employee relations office, a union official, or Office of Equal Employment Opportunity.
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  •   The term "reasonable accommodation" is a term of art that Congress defined only through examples of changes or modifications to be made, or items to be provided, to a qualified individual with a disability. A reasonable accommodation is adapting the job site or job functions   for a qualified person with a disability to enable an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. This does not mean that the employer must lower the standards of work for the position or change the job requirements. There are three categories of reasonable accommodations:
    • Modifications or adjustments to a job application process to permit an individual with a disability to be considered for a job (such as providing application forms in alternative formats like large print or Braille);
    • Modifications or adjustments necessary to enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job (such as providing sign language interpreters); and
    • Modifications or adjustments that enable employees with disabilities to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment (such as removing physical barriers in an office cafeteria).
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  • People with disabilities who work in offices have been using service animals successfully for many years. Service animals may accompany a person with a disability to the office, cafeteria, meetings, and on travel. Since service animals are alert to the needs of their owner, it is important not to interfere or distract them while they are working. Most service animals sleep when not providing service and need to have a safe rest area of adequate size located near their owner. The person with a disability should be allowed to provide water and food rewards for their animal. Offices that are already wheelchair accessible usually have wider hallways and doorways that are accessible enough to provide the individual full access while walking with their animal. Individuals with disabilities who use service animals must be allowed time to attend to their basic needs. It is not the responsibility of office colleagues to provide care for the service animal. For more information, see People with Disabilities in the Federal Government: An Employment Guide located on this website.
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  •   In addition to competing for a position by applying via the link on a USAJOBS vacancy announcement, people with disabilities who are eligible for the Schedule A hiring authority may use the non-competitive hiring process to apply directly to agencies’ Selective Placement Program Coordinators (SPPC’s). SPPC’s may use this hiring authority to streamline the appointment of people with disabilities.   If you are interested in being considered under this special hiring authority, please provide the agency’s SPPC your "Proof of Disability" letter stating that you have a severe disability. You can get this letter from your doctor, a licensed medical professional, a licensed vocational rehabilitation specialist or any Federal, state or local agency that issues or provides disability benefits. Certain veterans may also be considered under special hiring programs for veterans with disability ratings of 30% or more. Department of Veterans Affairs vocational rehabilitation counselors should be able to provide additional information about this process.
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  • Agencies may employ personal assistants for employees with disabilities, including those with visual and hearing impairments, under authority provided by 5 U.S.C. 3102. In addition, Section 3102(d) of the law authorizes the payment of pay and allowances for an individual who accompanies an employee with a disability on official travel. Specifically, the statute provides that the head of an agency may authorize the payment to an individual to accompany or assist (or both) the employee with a disability for all or a portion of the travel period involved. The statute further provides that the accompanying individual shall be considered an employee, but only for purposes of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act. Accordingly, 5 U.S.C. Section 3110, which provides that a public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance or advocate for a relative (as defined in the section), does not prohibit pay to an accompanying spouse.
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