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.

Day One Keynote

Bio Sketches

Patricia Shiu Photo

Patricia A. Shiu serves as the Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at the U.S. Department of Labor. She leads a staff of nearly 800 men and women around the country who are dedicated to protecting workers, promoting diversity and enforcing the law.

OFCCP was established in 1965 by presidential Executive Order 11246. Over the years, OFCCP's authority has been expanded by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. As amended, these three laws hold federal contractors and subcontractors to the fair and reasonable standard that they take affirmative action in employment and not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran.

Director Shiu also serves on the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force which has been charged by President Barack Obama with cracking down on violations of equal pay laws and fulfilling, once and for all, the promise of the 1963 Equal Pay Act. She also represents the Secretary of Labor on the federal Interagency Working Group of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Ms. Shiu served as Vice President for Programs at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center in San Francisco. Ms. Shiu joined the Employment Law Center in 1983 as a staff attorney and spent 26 years representing workers in both individual and class action cases focused on employment discrimination. Her cases addressed issues such as gender, race, sexual orientation, national origin, immigration, disability, domestic violence and harassment. She has also litigated wage and hour and reproductive health hazard cases.

As the Director of the Legal Aid Society's Work and Family Project, Ms. Shiu advocated for the passage of California's Family Rights Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and Paid Sick Leave. She also fought to expand educational access for vulnerable students under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act and disability laws.

Ms. Shiu began her legal career as an associate with Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro in San Francisco. She was the President of California Women Lawyers in 1987. In 1993, she was appointed to the Civil Rights Reviewing Authority for the Department of Education by Secretary Richard Riley. Ms. Shiu served as the Vice President of the National Employment Lawyers Association and was recognized in 2009 with the Joe Morozumi Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the 2002 recipient of the Abby J. Leibman Pursuit of Justice Award, and the Pacific Asian American Women Bay Area Coalition's "Woman Warrior Award." Ms. Shiu is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and the University of San Francisco School of Law.

Conference Remarks

Patricia Shiu, the Director of the Office of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs of the U.S. Department of Labor, discusses the updated regulations on Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and its implications for employers, researchers, and policymakers on improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities. Director Shiu focuses on how these new regulations can and will improve employment opportunities for more than 30 million working-age Americans with disabilities.

Questions and Answers

Question, Jennifer Mizrahi, Respectability:

I have a question about the data that will come out of the process. Today, those of us who support more inclusive hiring of people with disabilities are always thrilled to talk about the positive data of Walgreens that they put on their website, showing that it helps create a better bottom line.

When you have these 503 regulations, suddenly a lot of companies that don't use best practices in how they can include people with disabilities will have internal data that may show that those employees performed less well than quote-unquote typical employees, probably because they aren't using supportive, inclusive practices.

But it could be that the Wall Street Journal will say look, the government is now hiring people, forcing people to hire people who are less effective. What is your PR rollout strategy to help deal with the big data that is going to come out of all the companies who are now going to start measuring things, some of which have not used smart practices in their HR Departments all along?

Answer, Patricia A. Shiu:

Well first of all, I don't accept the premise. Based on the contractors, the big contractors I know and have worked with, this has been a phenomenal success. So I don't expect that we're going to have that sort of issue, because that's what people in big companies who hire people with disabilities tell me.

So we'll see. But I don't suspect that that's going to be the case at all. I suspect that what we found is that people with disabilities, when matched with a correct job, a job for which they are qualified and are interested in, do very well at that job, are productive and loyal employees. Yes.

Question, Nancy Hammer, Society for Human Resource Management:

First, I wanted to thank you for the way that we were able to work together in a final rule. I think the improvements were really helpful. Secondly, I wanted to ask you about the status of the form, the self-identification form.

Answer, Patricia A. Shiu:

Yes. That is at OMB right now, and so we will have to see what OMB says about that. I know in another gathering last week, there were a lot of questions about why the name was not on the form, and if that somehow suggested that people could not inquire about the identity. Of course, you can inquire about the identity at the applicant stage. That information, of course, should be separated. But that's where that is at this point. Let me just say one other thing, which is we're going to use these next six months to really try and be in listening mode with contractors, because what I want to hear are what are the issues that you're facing in terms of operationalizing it that we may not have thought about.

Probably we did think about it, but you know, every industry's different, every business is different, because what we want to do is one, develop more sophisticated FAQs that address those specific concerns, now that people have had a chance to look at these rules, and also to develop more specific webinars.

You know, we had rolled out webinars, and I can tell you there are thousands of people who, and I'm so pleased about it, who were part of those webinars during the very first week. But you know, they were foundational, right. Once you get into the nitty-gritty, there are going to be other issues and other questions.

I ask those of you who are in a position to implement this in your companies, if you have specific questions, that you send them to our policy department at OFCCP. Naomi Levin is the person.

Question, August Spector:

What I was wondering about is what is the government going to do or is doing about the possible stigma that occurs, related to employees, stigma by the hiring official, management, if the employee voluntarily discloses, especially those who have hidden disabilities such as cognitive, psychological, you know, et cetera, especially in middle-sized companies.

Not necessarily the big, large ones, where they have internal guidance possibly from psychiatrists that are there. But at the middle-sized companies, and of educating the managers of those companies who make hiring decisions related to what is a disability? What does it mean and what effect or non-effect that might have on the job.

Answer, Patricia A. Shiu:

That's why the data's so important. If you know you have hired X number of employees in one year, and somehow the number has dropped precipitously, what's the reason for that, okay?

I think what I've learned, having been an advocate in the workplace, is that there has to be on-the-job training for your front line supervisors, whether it has to do with disability issues, sexual harassment issues, work and family issues.

I would expect that that's something, as a proactive measure, that many companies already employ. But that's why the data's important, because you'll be able to look at how many people have you hired and how many people have stayed, and how long have they stayed, and in what departments have they left, and what could be the reason for that? Yes, Jill.

Question, Jill Houghton, U.S. Business Leadership Network:

And again, I would mirror what Nancy said, and thank you for the opportunity to work together and what came out in the final rule. That definitely was a reflection of a great piece of work. So thank you.

When you talk about issues that are coming up, one of the issues that has come up regularly, and I don't know where we would turn for this, is people have asked about how the final rule is going to impact their negotiations in collective bargaining agreements. So a lot of the time --

Answer, Patricia A. Shiu:

Let me take that back to our office. You know, the one thing about these rules that I want to make sure that we, my believed contractors understand, is that this is really on a case-by-case basis. We're looking at where people start and where they need to go, and how they need to improve.

And that's why it's really a management tool. I guess this doesn't answer your question specifically, Jill. I will take your question back, because I just don't know. But that's what we hope to do, is look at these cases on a case-by-case basis. It's a process.

I just have one more comment. You know, this is a rule that came out of work from the entire Department of Labor, these rules, from OFCCP to the Solicitor's Office and the Policy division, and I just also want to recognize our partners sitting over here at ODEP.

I want to recognize Dylan Orr and Jennifer, because they've worked with us very closely, as has my dear colleague, Assistant Secretary Martinez. What they offer for you are some of the answers to the questions, because this is what they do; this is their specific expertise. So we work together as a team.

These are important rules not only for the American country, but also for the Department of Labor, and we view them as real game changers in a very positive way. Thank you, and I look forward to working with you all.