october 22nd–23rd, 2013 | washington, d.c.

Innovative Research on Employer Practices:
Improving Employment for People with Disabilities

A state of the science conference from the Rehabilitation and Research Training Center on Employer Practices Related to Employment Outcomes among Individuals with Disabilities. This two-day event highlighted the research findings from the Employer Practices Rehabilitation Research and Training Center at Cornell University ILR School's Yang-Tan Institute. It was a great success! Check back for reports and proceedings of the conference.

Challenges on the Minds of Employers:
Learnings from Employer-Participant Working Groups

Bio Sketches

Linda Barrington Photo

Linda Barrington, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Institute for Compensation Studies (ICS) in the ILR School at Cornell University, an interdisciplinary initiative in that analyzes, teaches, and communicates broadly about monetary and non-monetary rewards from work. Throughout her career, Barrington has completed research on global living standards, the working poor, gender and poverty, new workforce entrants, CEO perceptions of their top challenges, and executive compensation. She has published academic articles in the Review of Economics and Statistics, the Journal of Economic History, and the Historical Statistics of the U.S. Her work also appears in numerous business/practitioner reports published by The Conference Board, including research projects assessing trends in CEO challenges, top executive compensation, and issues surrounding workforce demographics, productivity, and wellness. She is co-author of Employment and Work: Key Issues and Future Directions-The SAGE Reference Series on Disability. She is also editor and contributing author to The Other Side of the Frontier: Economic Explorations into Native American Economic History. Barrington has received underwriting for her research from various sources, including the Atlantic Philanthropies, Rockefeller Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and most recently the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Barrington has presented expert opinion related to gender pay gaps to state-level policy panels. She has appeared on CNN, NBC Nightly News, as well as CNBC and Bloomberg, and has been a frequent contributor on economic issues to All Things Considered and Marketplace, in addition to other NPR programming. Barrington comes to the Institute for Compensation Studies from The Conference Board, a global business membership and research organization. There, she held several positions over the past 10 years, including economist, special assistant to the CEO, research director, and most recently Managing Director of Human Capital. Prior to The Conference Board, Barrington was on the economics faculty at Barnard College of Columbia University. While on faculty at Barnard College, she published several articles on gender economics, poverty measurement and economic history. She has also taught at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), the University of Michigan, and the University of Illinois. She earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Illinois, and a B.S. in economics from the University of Wisconsin.

Susanne Bruyere Photo

Susanne Bruyère, Ph.D., CRC, is Associate Dean of Outreach in the Cornell University ILR School and Director of the Yang-Tan Institute. As Associate Dean of Outreach, Susanne contributes to the development of the School's vision and mission, as well as to the strategic, programmatic, and administrative priorities for the School. She is also responsible for leading the public relations, communications, and marketing functions of the School, promoting visibility for the School's outreach activities and proactively seeking new clients and new external sources of funding for the outreach and research activities of the School. As Director of the Yang-Tan Institute, she is responsible for the strategic and financial direction of a multi- million dollar research, training, technical assistance, and information dissemination organization devoted to improving employment outcomes and inclusive communities for people with disabilities. Professor Bruyere is also currently Project Director and a Co-Principal Investigator of numerous research efforts focused on employment disability nondiscrimination and disability employment policy, funded by numerous federal agencies. Dr. Bruyere is a Fellow in the American Psychological Association, the current Chairperson of the Global Applied Disability Research and Information Network (GLADNET) and CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities), and Past President of the Division (22) of Rehabilitation Psychology of the American Psychological Association (APA), the National Council on Rehabilitation Education (NCRE), and the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association (ARCA).

Peter Linkow Photo

Peter Linkow is Senior Director of Diversity & Inclusion at WFD Consulting, which has focused on formulating and implementing work-life and diversity & inclusion strategies for over twenty-five years. Previously, he was President of WFD; the CEO of two organizations, serving people with disabilities; and a professor of management at Boston University, where he conducted research and published on strategy and strategic thinking. For the past twenty-five years, Peter has consulted, written, and spoken globally on strategy, change management, quality, and diversity & inclusion. Among his papers and publications are "Measuring Diversity for Cultural Change" for The Conference Board, "Is Your Culture Aligned with Diversity?" for Profiles in Diversity Journal, The Conference Board's 2009 global research report Meeting the Challenges of a Dispersed Workforce: Managing Across Language, Culture, Time, and Location, and Men and Work-Life Integration: A Global Study which he co-authored with Jan Civian. Peter served as Research Leader for The Conference Board's Research Working Group on Improving Employment Outcomes for Employees with Disabilities. He is the lead author of the group's research report Leveling the Playing Field: Attracting, Engaging, and Advancing People with Disabilities. Peter received his MBA from Harvard Business School as well as graduate degrees in educational policy and psychology from Harvard and Indiana Universities respectively. He earned his B.A. from DePauw University. Peter is a W.K. Kellogg Foundation National Leadership Fellow and serves as a Senior Fellow in Human Capital at The Conference Board.

Sarah Potter's Photo

Sarah Potter is an ANCC-certified Adult Nurse Practitioner, she holds a Master of Science in Nursing from the Yale School of Nursing. Sarah held primary care positions in New York City and Hartford, CT, before transitioning to corporate Occupational Health at Aetna. There she leveraged her clinical skills to provide direct care to employees, but also to consult on benefit, wellness and disability issues in Human Resources (HR). She spearheaded a collaboration between Aetna HR, Aetna's Office of Diversity and Aetna Disability that resulted in Aetna's winning the New Freedom Initiative Award from the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy in 2006. Aetna has had a centralized ADA budget since the passing of the ADA, and has developed a best practice, centralized ADA request process. Sarah is Aetna's subject matter expert on the interactive process, working annually with hundreds of employees and their managers on ADA accommodation requests. In addition she serves as corporate advocate for disability inclusion in the workplace. She is a founding member of and an advisor to AetnAbilities, Aetna's ERG for employees with an interest in disability issues. She is delighted to participate in this symposium.

Nora Vele

Nora Vele is the Executive Director of Equal Opportunity Compliance for Merck & Co. Inc. She provides strategic leadership and direction for the development, integration and corporate wide implementation of the company's compliance strategy. Nora has over 20 years of demonstrated expertise in developing cutting-edge compliance programs. She has a wealth of regulatory compliance experience, having handled more than 60 different federal audits for compliance with U.S. Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity requirements for federal contractors since 1986 — each time, receiving a letter of compliance. Nora oversees the design and execution of complex statistical analysis, talent management development initiatives, reductions in force, compliance audits, and merger integration change efforts. To support Merck's commitment to inclusion, Nora led the design of the organization's Workplace EnABLEment program, an enterprise-wide strategy for full disability inclusion. She also serves as a diversity consultant to each of the nine Merck Employee Resource Groups, which helps to drive the organization's business imperatives. Nora serves as a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Labor Relations. The committee develops Chamber policy and programs on a wide range of labor and employment issues, including: employment nondiscrimination, minimum wage and wage-hour, occupational safety and health, immigration, labor-management relations, union corporate/strategic campaigns, workplace privacy, work-family issues and leave mandates, and emerging international labor policy issues. She is a member of Mercer's Corporate Leaders in Equal Opportunity (CLEO) a cross-industry team of senior equal employment opportunity leaders and served on the Board of Directors for the Equal Employment Advisory Council (EEAC). Nora has held corporate leadership roles collaborating with government agencies on the integration of compliance and diversity programs.

Sarah Potter's Photo

Stephen M. King began his federal career in 1998 as a Statistician at the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2001, Stephen joined the Recruitment and Diversity Branch of the Census Bureau's Human Resources Division, where he developed a comprehensive recruiter training program and effective targeted recruitment strategies, implemented extensive changes to the on-campus student interview process, and designed automated processes to increase efficiencies. In 2003, he was selected to be the Census Bureau's first Disability Program Manager (DPM). As the DPM, Stephen was instrumental in developing a model disability program, including increasing the use of non-competitive appointing authorities to improve the hiring of individuals with disabilities and veterans, addressing facility accessibility concerns for Census's new headquarters, and implementing streamlined reasonable accommodation procedures. Under Mr. King's leadership, the U.S. Census Bureau led the U.S. Department of Commerce in providing employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities. After serving as the Chief of Recruitment and Delegated Examining at the Bureau of Labor Statistics throughout 2006, Mr. King returned to Census to oversee the creation of the agency's Disability and Diversity Programs Office and the development of processes and procedures in preparation for the 2010 Census, the largest peace-time civilian undertaking in American history. It was during this period that Stephen began working closely with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to educate the federal workforce on the Schedule A appointing authority. April 2009, Stephen was detailed to the Department of Defense (DoD) to lead the Department's participation in a joint effort with the EEOC to develop and deliver a comprehensive training course for federal Disability Program Managers. Today, the course is considered essential to effective disability program management within the federal sector and has been recognized by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management as a model strategy. In November 2009, Stephen became the DoD's Director of Disability Programs, Office of Diversity Management & Equal Opportunity (ODMEO). In his role, Stephen serves as the DoD senior spokesperson and subject matter expert on the employment of individuals with disabilities, develops and influences disability policy for the Department, leads ODMEO's efforts to assist wounded service members transitioning to civilian life, and is the Co-Chair of the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) for college students and recent graduates with disabilities, which has received recognition as a model strategy to attract youth with disabilities to public service. Mr. King represents the Office of the Secretary of Defense on the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities (ICC), serves as the DoD liaison on the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (U.S. Access Board), and in collaboration with the DoD Office of Civilian Personnel Policy, is responsible for the Department's implementation of Executive Order 13548, Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities, which mandates federal agencies to hire 100,000 individuals with disabilities by 2015. Stephen is a graduate of Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, where he graduated with honors in 1995. Mr. King currently resides in Arlington, Virginia.

Conference Remarks

This panel provides an overview of efforts and findings from earlier work by the Employer Practices RRTC which consisted of focus groups with employer partners from the Conference Board and the Cornell University Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies. Peter Linkow discusses the resulting publication, "Leveling the Playing Field," that was derived from three different focus groups. This panel also includes the perspectives of three employer representatives who comment on their experience in participating in these efforts, as well as their thinking about the findings flowing from this work and its implications for employer practices going forward.

Questions and Answers

Question, Participant:

Thank you, and thank you for putting this together. I have a few questions, if I could, briefly for Mr. King and anybody else on the panel.

One of the things that intrigues me is in the aftermath of the Navy Yard incident last month or the month before, there's going to be another look at how security clearances are granted and not granted, reviewed and that sort of thing.

What is your office doing to be a stakeholder for that review, to ensure that there isn't some sort of a discriminatory approach with regard to employees with various types of disabilities that might impede on their ability to get security clearances?

That's been an issue in the past with security clearances. It's gotten better, but now with this incident, there are concerns that it might get worse again.

Another question I had was could you talk a little bit? I know you said that there was over-representation, so to speak, with regard to large employers. Could you talk a little bit about the involvement of small businesses and medium-sized businesses in the panels, and what kind of problems they have that may not be the same as those that are experienced by larger employers, and some of those that might be the same?

And then finally, if you could talk a little bit about the issue of freelancers as employees. That's becoming something of a trend. There was a report on NPR a few weeks ago that 30 percent, I think, of the workforce, may be considered freelancers at some point in their work lives.

So how might that be an issue that you guys would look at? Thanks.

Comment, Susanne M. Bruyère:

In the interest of time, I'm going to ask Stephen to respond to that one question. We will be talking after the break about different size employers in the study we did with the Society for Human Resource Management.

We also have the National Federation of Independent Business coming later on a different panel to talk about small business interests. Your third question let me think about, because we do a lot in the ILR School about that.

But I don't know as we actually have it on a panel. So let me think about that, and I'll get you a resource if I can't respond in the context of the two days. Okay. Thank you, Stephen.

Answer, Stephen M. King:

Actually, my office has not been involved in that. I will tell you, however, in general, that whenever a new policy is put into effect, it is coordinated through or with the offices that need to review such new policies.

Of course, everything else goes through a legal review, and I will say that having worked at three federal government agencies, I'm quite confident in our legal team at the Pentagon and the Department of Defense.

They are very aware of the Rehabilitation Act and, you know, preventing discrimination or trying to do our part to of course prevent discrimination, to make sure our policies are as fair as possible, given what possibly could indeed happen.

But no, the Disability Program Office has not been involved with that review of policy as far as security clearances go.


To view a plain text version of the slides seen below, please see the
Plain Text Summaries.