Fort Bragg’s Equal Employment Opportunity office works to maintain workforce diversity and to ensure that employees are able to function in an environment free of discrimination. In recognition of October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a two-session workshop was held, Oct. 15, at Pope Theater.
Anita Richardson, an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission administrative judge was guest speaker. Representatives from the U.S. Forces Command and various installation agencies, including various directorates across Fort Bragg attended.
Discussion addressed issues pertaining to reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. According to Section 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, disability is defined as an individual who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.
Major life activities include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, walking, standing, bending, speaking, reading, thinking, communication, etc., or of maintaining major bodily functions such as digestive, bowel, respiratory, circulatory and endocrine.
Additionally, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs run by federal agencies; programs that receive federal financial assistance; in federal employment; and in the employment practices of federal contractors.
According to Fort Bragg’s EEO website, it is the Army’s policy to “fully comply with the reasonable accommodations requirements of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. Federal agencies must provide reasonable accommodation to qualified employees or applicants with disabilities, unless to do so would cause undue hardship.”
Undue hardship is an accommodation that would be too difficult or expensive to provide.
During the workshop, Richardson discussed different scenarios that could apply to persons with disabilities, as well as an agency’s responsibility to responding to those scenarios.
In one scenario, a person with paraplegia applies for a job as a secretary. If the hiring agency moves a typing test which is used as assessment for employment to another location, has the agency met the requirements of reasonable accommodations?
Maybe, said Richardson. The answer could depend on whether or not the applicant would need specialized equipment for the typing test.
Fort Bragg has access to various types of specialized equipment and assistive technology, said Iris Murray, supervisory human resources specialist, Fort Bragg’s Civilian Personnel Advisory Center. Hiring someone with a disability would be a win-win situation, she said.
Other options for considering or accommodating an employee with disabilities include:
Allow use of assistive devices or technology
Allow work from home
Modify work duties
Make an adjustment to a person’s work station
Allow leave or leave without pay
Reasonable accommodations are handled on a case-by-case basis, but it is important not to ignore request, Richardson said. The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act for a person who wins a disability discrimination case is $300,000 (for employers with more than 500 employees).
“If you want to save your agency money, then you’d better document,” she explained. “We need to follow the law to the best of our abilities. We want to make sure we are giving everyone the same opportunities.