To mark the 50th Anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor (DOL) released a commemorative disability resource guide. The guide provides information regarding recruiting, hiring, and employing individuals with disabilities. The two agencies issued the guide specifically to explain the key roles each has in enforcing the Rehabilitation Act, in outreach, and in education. Together, the agencies work to ensure individuals with disabilities receive equal employment opportunities through enforcement efforts. Last month, the EEOC sued a tech company for disability discrimination against a deaf applicant.

Overview of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Signed 50 years ago, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 introduced employment protections for qualified employees and applicants with disabilities in the federal and federal contractor sectors. Additionally, the law served as a model for Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title I of the ADA). Title I of the ADA prohibits disability discrimination in private employment.

Specifically, the EEOC enforces Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 501). Section 501 prohibits federal agencies from discriminating against individuals with disabilities at work. In addition, Section 501 requires agencies to take significant steps to eliminate disability-related barriers to employment. Meanwhile, the DOL’s  Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) enforces Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 503). Section 503 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in employment.

Disability Resource Guide

The agencies’ commemorative disability resource guide, titled Employment Protections Under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: 50 Years of Protecting Americans with Disabilities in the Workplace, provides information for federal employers and contractors on disability and employment. It includes important information. The disability resource guide includes information about the Rehabilitation Act, where federal employers and contractors can receive help, best practices, and additional resources. Specific sections of note include the following information:

  • Important definitions under the Rehabilitation Act;
  • Federal employer responsibilities under Section 501;
  • Information and resources for reasonable accommodations;
  • Requirements for federal agencies to provide personal assistance services;
  • Federal contractor and subcontractor responsibilities under Section 503;
  • Recruitment and hiring best practices; and
  • Agency technical guidance.

Overall, the agencies hope that the disability resource guide will help educate federal employers and contractors on their responsibilities under the Rehabilitation Act. In turn, this would ensure that qualifying individuals with disabilities receive equal employment opportunities. Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy Taryn Williams added, “This resource allows employers to build better, more inclusive workforces by expanding their recruiting methods to find the most qualified workers and adopt strategies that help them keep and advance their talents.”