- The federal workforce participation rate of people with disabilities has increased more than 8% since 2014, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found in a report it released Thursday. People with disabilities (PWD) in 2018 made up 9.42% of federal employees; in 2014, the participation rate was 8.68%. Roughly 5% of employees declined to identify their disability status.
- The report demonstrated several other positive trends. While employees with disabilities comprised 11.2% of all new hires in 2018, falling below the permanent hiring goal of 12%, employment of people with targeted disabilities (PWTD) — those associated with high unemployment, such as deafness, blindness, paralysis and developmental disabilities — exceeded the goal of 2% for that group, with 2.36% of new hires having targeted disabilities. In addition, the report found that PWD and PWTD “were promoted at a rate similar to what would be expected based on their participation rate.”
- The report also uncovered some areas the agency identified for improvement. For example, PWD and PWTD are less likely than people with no disabilities to be in leadership positions. They were also more likely to leave their roles, both voluntarily and involuntarily.
The EEOC’s report followed “Affirmative Action for Individuals With Disabilities in Federal Employment,” a regulation promulgated in 2017. The rule outlines the federal government’s obligations with regard to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires affirmative action in employment by the government and prohibits disability discrimination.
The report dug into a wide array of data, returning a number of findings. Among federal government workers, men are more likely to have disabilities (including targeted disabilities) than women, as are veterans. Within race and national origin groups, those of two or more races are most likely to have disabilities, followed by Black workers. Asian workers were least likely to have disabilities. Older workers are more likely to have disabilities than younger workers.
Those with disabilities reported less satisfaction with their workplace experience. Eight percent fewer PWD reported being satisfied with recognition for doing a good job, and they were 6.4% less likely to think their performance appraisals were fair reflections of their performance. They were also 8% less likely to agree promotions were based on merit.
The report also gathered data on complaints, finding discrimination based on physical disability made up nearly a third (28.2%) of formal EEO complaints from the federal sector in 2018. Complaints of discrimination based on mental disabilities made up about 15%, in comparison. The top complaints were harassment (nonsexual) and failure to provide reasonable accommodations.
In addition to analyzing the data, the EEOC report provided recommendations for federal employers to increase workforce representation of PWD. Among those, EEOC suggested federal agencies reassure employees of disclosure confidentiality to encourage more employees to disclose their status; specifically recruit and focus on retention of PWD in leadership positions; and increase focus on provision of reasonable accommodations. Streamlining the reasonable accommodation request process can help with accessibility, EEOC said.