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SHRM board member David Windley discusses how unconscious bias can derail workplace diversity efforts.
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The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) have extended their alliance by two years in order to improve job opportunities for people with disabilities.
On Nov. 20, 2009, Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of ODEP, and Laurence G. O’Neil, president and CEO of SHRM, signed a new two-year alliance agreement. “Opening more job opportunities for people with disabilities is a critical issue,” O’Neil told hundreds of SHRM volunteer leaders at SHRM’s annual Leadership Conference in Arlington, Va.
“As we begin to emerge from a period of great difficulty, organizations will resume their search for talent, and we can expect that the competition for that talent will be fierce,” he continued. “Successful organizations recognize that they can’t afford to exclude anyone on the basis of external factors because talent comes in all colors, genders and nationalities.
“Sexual orientation has no bearing on talent. Neither does age,” he said. “It shows up in people with different religious beliefs and alternative lifestyles and in individuals with disabilities.”
O’Neil noted that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has helped people with disabilities achieve greater participation in mainstream American society by providing them with greater access to facilities and transportation.
“However, disabled individuals still face an uphill struggle in the area that matters most—finding employment,” he noted.
Martinez said the current employment situation for people with disabilities is unacceptable. October 2009 data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that just 21.7 percent of people with disabilities are employed, far less than the 70.5 percent of nondisabled individuals who are employed.
SHRM has been a “fantastic partner” in helping to keep people with disabilities off the “special shelf,” Martinez said, adding that she appreciates the organization’s efforts to help move American businesses from awareness to action. “We have the tools to put people with disabilities to work,” she said.
O’Neil said SHRM is “delighted” to renew its agreement with ODEP. “We believe that this public-private partnership can help the ADA fulfill its promise and achieve the goal that we all agree on—full inclusion in the American workplace.”
In October 2009, O’Neil and Martinez met with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to discuss best practices regarding disability employment and how to create an inclusive and supportive work environment for people with disabilities in the public and private sectors.
SHRM Leadership Conference attendees were encouraged to obtain the free ODEP publication Diversifying Your Workforce: A Four-Step Reference Guide to Recruiting, Hiring, & Retaining Employees with Disabilities, which can be ordered or downloaded online.
Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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