Don’t be too quick with your answer.

Surprisingly, the answer is “yes,” if you work for a company that is a federal contractor, under new Labor Department regulations designed to increase the employment rate of people with disabilities (which stands at 14.3%, twice the nondisabled population).

The Wall Street Journal reported that under these new government regs, such an employer (with over 50 employees or more than $50,000 in government contracts) which has a workforce with fewer than 7% employees with disabilities, or which is not attempting to achieve that goal, could be penalized up to an including losing their government contracts.

Notwithstanding the salutary intent of hiring people with disabilities, both employers and employes are faced with a conundrum here.  Even though the EEOC has excepted these employers from inquiring about disabilities, which is otherwise forbbidden under the ADA, employers will likely be loathe to do so.  For their part, employees will be loathe to come forward and declare themselves disabled.

As one employee, paralyzed while a student at the Air Force Academy, said: “The word  disability means you’re not able to do something.  People don’t want to be perceived that way.  You don’t want your boss to see you as being limited in your capability.”

This reluctance to self-identify as disabled could create additional problems for employers, who may in fact have a workforce of employees with disabilities in excess of 7%, but who cannot prove it because employees will not admit to have a disability.   Tough issue.

Good article for diversity executives, among others, and good issue for a spirited discussion.