Langevin, Duckworth Lead Colleagues in Asking Trump Administration for Information on Hiring Targets, Retention Rates of Federal Employees with Disabilities

Jun 18, 2019 Issues: Disabilities, Economy and Jobs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI) and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) sent a letter to Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Margaret Weichert outlining their concerns that the Trump Administration is failing to hire and retain employees with targeted disabilities at rates outlined by an Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) initiative. The EEOC defines the term “targeted disabilities” as disabilities that the government has, for several decades, emphasized in hiring because they pose the greatest barriers to employment. Targeted disabilities include autism spectrum disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, deafness, blindness, and significant mobility impairment.

“We are concerned that the Federal Government is falling short in its efforts to hire more workers with targeted disabilities and, even more troubling, may be removing these workers during their probationary period at rates higher than those for nondisabled workers,” wrote Langevin and Duckworth. “To further our understanding of this issue, we ask that you provide directly to our offices detailed data on the removal rates for both permanent and probationary employees, including their agency of employment, veteran status, disability status and removal method.”

“Many of these workers are prone to unemployment and underemployment as a result of their disability,” Langevin and Duckworth continued. “A segment of them are Veterans. Reaffirming our Nation’s commitment to this population of workers advances our common cause of a fair and equitable society for all.”

The letter is endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) and the Co-Chairs of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Employment and Training Task Force.

The letter was signed by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL) Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), and Dina Titus (D-NV).

A full copy of the letter is available below and here.

Dear Acting Director Weichert:

We are writing on behalf of the Federal employees in our states—specifically those with targeted disabilities. We are concerned that the Federal Government is falling short in its efforts to hire more workers with targeted disabilities and, even more troubling, may be removing these workers during their probationary period at rates higher than those for nondisabled workers. To further our understanding of this issue, we ask that you provide directly to our offices detailed data on the removal rates for both permanent and probationary employees, including their agency of employment, Veteran status, disability status and removal method.

As you know, the Leadership for the Employment of Americans with Disabilities (LEAD) Initiative, overseen by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), features a goal of two percent for the overall participation rate of individuals with targeted disabilities in the federal workforce. Targeted disabilities include autism spectrum disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, deafness or blindness and significant mobility impairment, among other conditions. The Federal Government further describes its commitment to hiring individuals with disabilities in its regulations implementing the Rehabilitation Act, which says explicitly – “The Federal Government shall be a model employer of individuals with disabilities…with the goal of eliminating under-representation of individuals with disabilities in the federal workforce.”[1]

Unfortunately, according to the EEOC’s last Annual Report on the Federal Workforce, published in 2016, the Federal government is hiring these workers at a rate far below its stated benchmark. As of 2016, the participation rate for such employees was only 1.01%.[2] In addition, despite 2016 Office of Personnel Management and EEOC updates that broadened the definition of targeted disabilities, data provided to our offices indicates that, in 2017, the overall participation rate for such workers increased only to 1.34%. Even more troubling, the same data appears to show that in 2017, workers with targeted disabilities may have been involuntarily removed from their positions at double the rate of those without disabilities.

Many of these workers are prone to unemployment and underemployment as a result of their disability. A segment of them are Veterans. Reaffirming our Nation’s commitment to this population of workers advances our common cause of a fair and equitable society for all.

Therefore, we request additional information to better understand the current administration’s efforts to hire and advance these workers. Specifically, we request that you provide the most up-to-date calculation for the overall participation rate in the federal workforce for individuals with targeted disabilities. In addition, please provide the following information regarding federal employees who were removed from their position – in years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 (if available) broken down by:

·         Employment status – including permanent or probationary as well as full-time or part-time;

·         Veteran status;

·         Agency[3];

·         Disability status (targeted, other, or no disability as outlined by OPM form SF 256); and

·         Removal method – voluntary or involuntary.

We appreciate your attention to this request. We ask that you provide this information to our offices no later than [three weeks from send date]. Please contact our offices with any questions.

Sincerely,


[1] 29 CFR § 1614.203(c)

[3] Executive agencies and military departments (except uniformed members) as defined in Sections 102 and 105 of Title 5 U.S.C. (including those with employees and applicants for employment who are paid from nonappropriated funds), the United States Postal Service, the Postal Rate Commission, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Smithsonian Institution, and those units of the judicial branch of the federal government having positions in the competitive service.