In many communities across the U.S., the state government is the largest employer, paying competitive wages and providing benefits to people in a range of positions, from entry-level to highly specialized. Recognizing the importance of a workforce that reflects the diversity of the citizenry they serve, some state governments are taking proactive steps to recruit and retain qualified people with disabilities.
EARN’s States as Model Employers of People with Disabilities: A Comprehensive Review of Policies, Practices and Strategies provides more information about state government initiatives to increase the employment of people with disabilities within their own workforces, often called States as Model Employer (SAME) policies, while its Joint Resolution/Executive Order Package for State Policy Teams provides a how-to guide for states interested in implementing them.
EARN’s work around SAME policies is supported by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). As part of this partnership, NCSL has also produced tools and resources state legislators can use to understand other states’ experiences. Examples include:
- Disability Employment State Statute and Legislation Scan
- NCSL LegisBrief — State Policy Options for Employing People with Disabilities
Furthermore, in 2012-2013, then National Governors Association (NGA) Chair Jack Markell of Delaware made disability and employment his signature initiative. Over the course of the year, NGA held two stakeholder roundtables, 60 one-on-one meetings, two conference sessions and two state institutes and conducted an extensive literature review on disability employment. The result was A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities: A Blueprint for Governors, a policy framework organized according to five topic areas that were heavily discussed at these meetings.
In 2016, NCSL and the Council of State Governments (CSG) convened a yearlong joint task force of state policymakers to address barriers to employment and develop policy solutions to build a thriving workforce that is disability inclusive. Through the work of the task force, state legislators, legislative staff and state executive branch representatives explored the causes of these barriers and devised bipartisan policy options supporting increased employment access and opportunity for people with disabilities. The result was “Work Matters: A Framework for States on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities,” a report that offers state legislators 13 broad policy options, as well as real-life examples of innovative programs and policies that states have successfully used to build strong, inclusive workforces.
Some states also have policies that encourage or require their contractors to take steps to increase disability inclusion among their workforces as a condition of doing business with the state government. In many cases, these policies are akin to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits employers with federal contracts from discriminating against qualified applicants and employees with disabilities and requires affirmative steps to hire, retain and promote them. More information about such state-level policies can be found in EARN’s Advancing Economic Opportunities for Business Owners and Jobseekers with Disabilities: A Review of State and Municipal Government Contracting Procurement and Tax Incentive Programs for Disability-Owned Businesses.