Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) of the House Education and the Workforce Committee will be inquiring into the new “benchmarks” that federal contractors will be required to adopt. Julian Hattem at The Hill has more details, and quotes me:
“They have the power to be intrusive and expensive to contractors that they believe are not playing ball on this,” said Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. “If the initiative means anything, it means that they are signaling to ‘Please be one of the ones that we think is trying to make these benchmarks, because if we think that you’re one of the ones we think are not trying to make the benchmarks, you will be hearing from us.’”
To achieve the [7 percent disabled goal], employers will need to hope that large numbers of new hires will turn out to have less visible disabilities, such as back problems, diabetes or (perhaps most useful because most subjectively defined) the array of mental, emotional and behavioral issues that are the most dynamically expansive disability category of all, and which can range from neurosis to learning disability to oppositional defiant disorder to drug and alcohol abuse (if in rehab).
Trouble is, it’s illegal under the ADA for employers to ask job applicants whether they’re disabled, even if the question is offered with favorable intent. So the rules contemplate a fan dance of “invited self-identification” in which workers are given repeated chances at successive stages of the hiring process to announce that they are disabled. Unfortunately for quota compliance, even after getting the job an employee may be too shy to offer such a self-identification, which means the employer may lose any “credit” for the hire. Perhaps equally frustrating, an employee hired with the quota in mind may turn out not to have any disability at all (“Dang it! And she looked so disabled!”).