By Jay Ruderman
Here’s an op-ed Leo Vercollone and I had in the Boston Business Journal on Friday:
Hiring the Disabled is Good Business
— Jay Ruderman
Date: Friday, June 8, 2012, 6:00am EDT
IBM, KPMG, Kaiser Permanente, Aetna, Ernst & Young, Procter & Gamble, Merck & Co., Deloitte, Sodexo, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. These companies are among the most successful and recognized in the world. They are international enterprises with strong brands. Collectively they generate hundreds of billions of dollars annually in revenue.
And they are world leaders in an area that is vital and integral to business performing optimally and achieving its fullest potential: recruiting and hiring people with disabilities. These organizations constitute “The DiversityInc. Top 10 Companies for People With Disabilities” for 2011.
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. It was a milestone in U.S. civil rights history and, since enacted, it has served as a foundation of protection for the equal rights of people with disabilities and their access to public transportation, office buildings, and bathrooms. The ADA was a big and necessary step that benefited all.
There are more steps to be taken. Patricia Shiu, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), took one of those steps in December when she proposed a labor rule that requires companies with federal contracts to maintain a labor force where no fewer than 7 percent of those employed have disabilities.
When a society takes the initiative in recruiting and hiring those with disabilities, it avails itself of a worker population that has proved to be exceedingly reliable, trustworthy, thorough and committed for the long haul.
The national unemployment rate for people without a disability is 8.1 percent. But for those with disabilities, the unemployment rate is much higher. The OFCCP initiative is a civil rights initiative that will encourage and support employers’ increasing efforts to hire people with disabilities. These efforts will in turn strengthen all business sectors and the U.S. economy.
The federal government cannot compel all businesses to hire people with disabilities. But it can use its leverage with federal contractors to make change. Some opponents say the government should use carrots instead of sticks. Reserving a mere 7 percent of positions, when an abundant talent pool exists and when people with disabilities have proved to be such good workers, hardly seems a stick at all.
The Obama administration policy makes social justice a winner and will begin to lower the unemployment rate for people with disabilities. But just as important, it is good for business.
Jay Ruderman is president of the Ruderman Family Foundation. Leo Vercollone is president of VERC Enterprises of Duxbury.