Major employment law change set for Monday

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by Adam McDonald, KMOV.com staff

KMOV.com

Posted on March 23, 2014 at 6:41 PM

Updated Sunday, Mar 23 at 11:21 PM

(KMOV) -- Beginning Monday, March 24th, businesses that work with the Federal Government will be required to set goals to employ people with disabilities at a rate of seven percent and in doing so, keep track of their progress. 

This rule change stems from an effort to combat chronic unemployment of people with disabilities. Most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2012 the unemployment rate for non-disabled Americans stood at eight percent, but almost doubled for people with disabilities. 

The workforce participation rate for non-disabled Americans was 31.6%, while 76.5% of people with disabilities in the same age group were out of the work force entirely, and the median household income for a person reporting a disability was $25,420, compared to $59,411 for someone without a disability.

“These numbers remain unchanged over the past 40 years despite dramatic improvements in access to physical workplaces, technology, and policy,” says attorney David Newburger, co-director of the Starkloff Disability Institute. "Many people with disabilities want to work, but face barriers."

These new requirements may mean many changes in personnel departments and workplaces. SDI is working with the St. Louis region’s major employers to understand the new requirements, which will include asking employees to self-identify any disabilities. 

The new law permits companies to invite employees to self-disclose a disability, allowing the company to conduct an internal census. With this data, companies can make sure their recruiting and hiring practices do not inadvertently exclude qualified candidates with disabilities. But, no employee has to disclose a disability unless he or she wants to. 

SDI prepares people with disabilities to compete for competitive jobs and, in doing so, changes attitudes throughout corporate America.  Their program, ‘The Next Big Step’ is unique in that participants – mostly college graduates – undergo 15 weeks of intensive training and learn to market themselves as professionals who happen to disabilities. Some of the companies that work with SDI participate in the training.  

“We began our partnership with SDI years ago because we believed in their mission and we thought Nestle could help," said Steve Degnan, Chief Human Resources Officer of North America, Nestle Purina.  "SDI now gives us guidance and resources we need to understand this new regulation. We are so grateful for this partnership."

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