According to recent studies, the workforce of America is rapidly changing and growing more diverse in nature. It is anticipated that over the next few decades, the primary percentage of new growth in the workplace will be comprised of ethnic minorities, immigrants and women. It is also anticipated that the number of employees with disabilities will increase.
With labor shortages as a factor facing businesses in America, there is a very logical solution to hire the current generation of Americans with disabilities.
For those readers fortunate enough to have escaped this population, it is important to consider that this is the nation’s largest minority group and one that can be joined at any time.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, if you do not currently have a disability, you have approximately a 20% likelihood of becoming disabled within your working life.
People with disabilities span Racial, gender, and educational, socioeconomic and organizational lines. People with disabilities can offer different viewpoints to work toward effective workplace solutions, if afforded the opportunity. By developing a policy of inclusion, all segments of the population are represented adequately.
According to 1994-1995 data from the U.S. Census Bureau statistics, 72.2% of African Americans with disabilities and 51.9% of Hispanics with disabilities are not working.
The data further demonstrated that 85.5% of African Americans and 75.4% of Hispanics with severe disabilities are not presently employed, pointing to a very bleak picture for minorities with disabilities.
What then are some strategies for employers to support diversity in the workplace?
How can those employees representative of minority groups, with disabilities be afforded inclusion?
*Embark on an educational program to enhance your knowledge and those in your workplace about people with disabilities, and, in particular, minority disability issues.
*If you currently have disabled employees on staff, ask them for suggestions
*Establish an education program onsite that is aimed at enhancing sensitivity regarding hiring people with disabilities
*If you offer a diversity-training program, ensure that your efforts include people with disabilities to solicit their valuable input.
OUTREACH AND RECRUITMENT:
*When a job opening occurs in your company, contact professional organizations that serve people with disabilities
*Attend minority-related conferences and events
*Make sure there is adequate representation by individuals with disabilities on your committees in the workplace
*When scheduling off-site activities and training, be certain they are accessible by employees with disabilities
Make certain you are not engaging in discriminatory practices as defined by Title VII, the ADA and the ADEA.
The challenge then is to take advantage of the workers' strengths and in employment policy, embracing inclusion. It is not to be viewed as a charitable gesture. Disabled workers deserve the opportunity for workplace opportunities…and, it is the law!
Want to learn more? Look for future articles on this subject as we delve into Federal Laws prohibiting job discrimination.
Jamie Charter, M.S., CPDM
Jamie Charter, consultant, trainer and author, has been providing employment and litigation consulting services for 23 years through Charter and Company employment resource consultants in Soquel, California. Areas of specialization include development and implementation of disability management programs, case management, EEOC/FEHA/ADA consultation, return-to-work facilitation, CalPers job description services, job analyses, conducting training seminars for employer groups on sexual harassment prevention and discrimination and litigation /expert witness services in Forensics.