New regulations for federal contractors will require that at least seven percent of companies’ employees are disabled. The goal of the new rule is to reduce unemployment among the disabled, which currently stands at more than 14 percent. Any federal contractor who has more than 50 employees or does more than $50,000 in government work must meet the new guidelines. Companies who fall short of the seven percent mark and who don’t have a plan for increasing disabled hiring could be fined or possibly even restricted from working with government agencies.
Chicago attorney Howard Ankin says that he supports the new initiative. While many disabled people rely on Social Security, Mr. Ankin says it’s always preferable for someone to find a fulfilling occupation at which they can excel. He adds, “Far too often, the disabled are forced onto Social Security because their skills and talents are overlooked by employers. Many of my clients want to work, but simply aren’t given the opportunity.”
Some critics say the new regulations don’t go far enough. Disability advocates say that companies are able to satisfy the rule by showing that seven percent of their current employees are disabled. They would then have not further obligation to hire additional disabled employees. However, employers have said that many of their employees may be reluctant to identify themselves as disabled.
To deal with the issue, employers are preparing surveys to identify disabled employees and applicants. The survey doesn’t require specific disclosure of what the disability is; rather, it only asks whether or not a person is disabled. Companies usually aren’t allowed to ask about that information. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made an exception so companies can comply with the new rule.
Chicago attorney Howard Ankin hopes that the rule has its intended outcome. He says that Social Security does provide a valuable safety net for those who need help. However, he also says that he knows many disabled people would prefer to work rather than receive benefits.