Companies in the Atlanta, Georgia area, have experienced staff shortages in the last few years, prompting many employers to try to diversify their work environments. Recently, some companies have turned toward hiring more people with developmental disabilities and have found the practice rewarding.
New Georgia bill could help workers with developmental disabilities gain employment
Georgia has been facing a significant labor shortage, and individuals with developmental disabilities say that hiring them to fill positions is the answer. A report by National Core Indicators from 2020-2021 revealed that 54% of people with disabilities wanted to get paying jobs but were unable to do so, even if they took classes or acquired job training.
Georgia Senate House Bill 198 would have created a commission aimed at increasing the number of resources available for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but it failed to pass. Sponsors hope they can have certain parts of the bill added to House Bill 520, which aims to improve access to behavioral health services.
Democratic State Senator Sally Harrell, the lead bill sponsor, stressed the importance of updating data management systems to help people on wait lists for services. “The waiting list can be managed better and more transparent to the public to work towards the goals of making Georgia an employment-first state,” Harrell said at a state Capitol press conference in late February.
With so many Georgia residents with disabilities left out of a workforce that’s struggling to find employees, Employment First advocates went to the state Capitol to push for opportunities for those with developmental disabilities. They’re calling for equal opportunities even though employers can legally pay those workers below the federal minimum wage.
Advocates for disability employment want employers and lawmakers to see that individuals with disabilities are worth well-paying opportunities. However, many limit their working hours to 15 per week so they can retain their Social Security benefits. These issues stress the importance of passing Bill 198 and another proposed bill, HR 168, so that people with developmental disabilities can get their fair share in the workforce.
What types of impairments are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, people who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity are considered disabled. As such, they are protected by the law.
Some examples of impairments that may be covered by the ADA include the following:
- Mobility impairments
- Visual impairments
- Hearing impairments
- Intellectual disabilities
- Psychiatric disabilities
- Certain chronic illnesses
What accommodations are considered “reasonable accommodations?”
Under the ADA, workers with disabilities have the right to request reasonable accommodations to help them perform their jobs. Reasonable accommodations are considered any adjustment made to the working area as long as it doesn’t create an undue hardship to the employer.
The following are some examples of reasonable accommodations:
- Modifying work schedules to be more flexible
- Adjusting training materials and employee policies
- Providing interpreters for hearing-impaired workers
- Providing designated parking spots
- Restructuring job duties
- Allowing the use of a service animal
- Adding accessibility features to desks, computers and the environment, in general
- Reassigning employees to other positions
- Providing new equipment or modifying existing equipment
- Adding ramps to accommodate wheelchairs
There are only a few examples of the many ways that workplace accommodations can be made to help workers with disabilities.
How does an employer benefit when they hire someone with a disability?
People with developmental disabilities aren’t the only ones who benefit from job opportunities. Employers can also reap certain benefits from hiring them, including:
- Better diversity in the workplace
- An improved workplace culture that is more open and compassionate
- Reduced employee turnover as individuals with disabilities are more likely to stick around on a long-term basis
- Potential tax incentives and deductions
- A positive public image
- Increased innovation due to fresh perspectives and approaches to challenges
There are numerous other benefits that come with hiring employees with disabilities. Among them, the employer can feel good about giving these workers a chance to shine.
What should workers do if they feel an employer discriminated against them based on their disability?
Everyone deserves equal opportunity employment, but if a worker believes they’ve faced workplace discrimination based on their disability status, they have a right to file a complaint. This can be done by contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the incident. Taking immediate action is the best way to respond to ensure that your voice is heard.
After you have filed your complaint, the EEOC will investigate the issue and try to rectify it. If this is unsuccessful, the Department of Justice steps in and determines whether a lawsuit should be initiated.
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Contact a Georgia workers’ compensation attorney
At Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys, we believe all workers are entitled to equal opportunities and treatment, as well as a safe and supportive work environment. If you’ve suffered an on-the-job illness or injury in Atlanta, contact our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys for help with your claim.
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