EEOC Regulations Add 2 Action Items for Employing People with Disabilities


By SHRM Online staff January 13, 2017
EEOC Regulations Add 2 Action Items for Employing People with Disabilities

New regulations from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) clarify federal agencies' affirmative action obligations as employers under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The regulations affect 114 federal agencies.

The regulations will take effect Jan. 3, 2018. Private businesses and state and local governments will not be affected.

The new regulations consolidate existing affirmative action requirements, such as having procedures for providing reasonable accommodations in writing and seeking out qualified job applicants with disabilities, in compliance with Section 501.
Also, two action items were added:

  • Federal agencies must take specific steps to gradually increase the number of employees they hire who have a disability as defined under Section 501, as well as to increase the number of employees who have what the government defines as a "targeted" disability—including autism, blindness, deafness, mental illness, paralysis and convulsive disorders. Targeted disabilities are thought to pose the greatest barriers to employment. 

The regulations stipulate that agencies should aim for employees with disabilities to make up 12 percent of their workforce. Employees who have a targeted disability should make up another 2 percent of each agency's workforce. These goals apply to employees at both the higher and lower pay-grade levels in the federal government.  

Based on U.S. census data, there are approximately 1.2 million people who have a targeted disability, are unemployed and are looking for work, the EEOC reported in the final rule that appeared in the Jan. 3 issue of the Federal Register. The EEOC did not include census data on the number of people with nontargeted disabilities who are unemployed and looking for work.

  • Federal agencies will be required to provide personal assistance services to employees who need them to perform basic activities at work, such as eating and using the restroom. 

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Accommodating Employees' Disabilities]

"Increasing employment rates for individuals with disabilities is a national priority for the federal government," EEOC chairwoman Jenny Yang said in a news release. "These new regulations provide concrete steps and accountability mechanisms to promote employment and advancement opportunities for people with disabilities across the government."

In 2015, 17.5 percent of people with a disability were employed in the U.S., the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in June 2016. In contrast, the employment rate for people without a disability was 65 percent.

For every person with a disability who transitions from receiving benefits to gainful employment, the federal government saves approximately $19,380 in paid benefits annually, and gains approximately $8,079 in tax revenue each year, for a total annual benefit to the federal government of about $27,459 per person, according to the final rule.

EEOC Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum led an internal work group that developed the new regulations.

"Too many people with disabilities who have the skills and the desire to work remain unemployed or underemployed," Feldblum said in the news release.

"These regulations create new opportunities for people with disabilities to achieve the satisfaction and economic self-sufficiency that comes with employment, particularly by setting employment goals for people with targeted disabilities and providing personal assistance services to those who need them in the workplace," she said.


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