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Feldman Testimony on MA Workforce Development + ADA H.136 Feldman


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House Bill no. 136, filed in January 2013, is a petition to increase the Commonwealth of Massachusett's compliance with federal law meeting requirements of the Amercians with DisAbilities Act. This written testimony explains that the US Dept. of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs announced a Final Rule on August 27, 2013, which made changes to the regs implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Most important is the establishment of the 7 percent workforce utilization goal for individuals with disabilities (IWD). Massachusetts has an important opportunity at this time to develop into a Model Employer of Individuals with DisAbilities!

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Feldman Testimony on MA Workforce Development + ADA H.136 Feldman

  1. 1. sent via email 9/10/13 To the Honorable: Senator Daniel A. Wolf, Chair, Representative Thomas P. Conroy, Chair, Senator Michael Barrett, Vice Chair, Representative Lori A. Ehrlich, Vice Chair, and all Members of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development: Thank you for the opportunity to testify on H. 136, a petition sponsored by the Honorable James J. O'Day and others relative to job opportunities for people with disabilities. I am a working age Massachusetts resident living with disabilities. I have been aware that the State wishes to become a Model Employer for all diverse minorities, including for people living with disabilities since 2006. However, until these stated goals are enforceable through laws, regulations and industry standards; and, until these aspirations are supported with the necessary Executive Office leadership support, and workforce human capital investments affirming civil rights and nondiscrimination of persons with disabilities with accountable strategies and HR development- we qualified people living with disabilities are all too aware that the promises of Executive Order 526 are still collecting dust on the shelf. H. 136 is ripe this year, and will ensure that our Commonwealth will be in lock-step with national goals. The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy tells us that, in August 2013, disability employment stats nationwide are still unbelievably disproportionate for people with disabilities: Labor Force Participation for People with disabilities: 20.5% compared to: People without disabilities: 69.1% Unemployment Rate for People with disabilities: 14.1% compared to: People without disabilities: 7.1% These disparities are enormous, aren't they? That's why the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs announced a Final Rule in August 27, 2013, which made changes to the regs implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 503 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against individuals with disabilities (IWDs), and requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these individuals. DOL admitted that nondiscriminatory employment "guidelines"and aspirational language was not enough to reverse the curse that continued to keep qualified individuals with disabilities disproportionately under-employed and under-utilized throughout Federal programs. The most notable change is: DOL has finally established a firm 7 percent workforce utilization goal for individuals with disabilities. (DOL's final rule permits contractors with a total workforce of 100 or fewer employees to apply the 7 percent goal to their entire workforce, rather than to each job group.) The Final Rule also strengthens the affirmative action provisions of the regulations to aid contractors in their efforts to recruit and hire IWDs, and to improve job opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
  2. 2. The Final Rule also makes changes to the nondiscrimination provisions of the regulations to bring them into compliance with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. This Section 503 Final rule will be enforceable in approximately 6 months. Massachusetts has a perfectly ripe moment NOW to become the best public sector employer in the country. H.136 can provide the necessary established goals that will move the Commonwealth into action. For starters: to develop, formalize and integrate proactive, mission-specific and disability-competent HR Communities of Practice plus the necessary Oversight and accountability mechanisms and tools, such as an Annual report (lines 9 - 15 ), into Executive practices. Until Massachusetts invests in efficient, consistent, and disability-competent HR resources and processes related to workforce planning, training, recruiting, retaining and performance enhancement strategies, the disproportionate underutilization of qualified leaders and workers with disabilities will hamper the fulfillment and successful integration of E.O. 526. IWD can certainly be hired to provide the needed leadership in creating clear and accountable management tools to inform decision making. People like me are just waiting in the wings, praying for our intellect, talents, abilities and underutilized knowledge-base to be recognized and employed as equally productive -and equitably compensated- members of society. Please pass H.136 without delay. Thank you. SIncerely, Eileen Feldman, Director, Community Access Project, Somerville