The SCV Mayor’s Committee has been engaged in creating awareness of the benefits of employing individuals with disabilities. We have seen barriers overcome and the way made clear for many hard-working, dedicated and skilled individuals with disabilities to enter the workforce, successfully hold a job, make friends and expand life experience, and play a role in the success of the business.
From the beginning the Mayor’s Committee has been emphasizing that there are a number of measurable advantages to the employer in hiring individuals with disabilities. We have encouraged employers wishing to hire, or to know more about hiring, to consult with the Committee members for assistance and more detailed information.
As a help to potential employers, we’ve put together information on three basic questions that are often asked: What is considered a disability, what are reasonable accommodations, and can the business receive assistance in the form of tax incentives.
What is considered a disability in the state of California?
In California, disability is defined by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) as an actual or perceived physical or mental disability or medical condition that is disabling or potentially disabling, which limits a major life activity.
The listing manual includes musculoskeletal problems, cardiovascular conditions, senses and speech issues, respiratory illnesses, neurological disorders, mental disorders, immune system disorders and various syndromes.
What accommodations must an employer provide?
For all employees that have a qualified disability, the employer must provide “reasonable” accommodations. A reasonable accommodation is assistance or changes to a position or workplace that will enable an employee to do his or her job despite having a disability.
Examples of accommodations include: making existing facilities usable by disabled employees, restructuring jobs, modifying exams and training material, providing a reasonable amount of additional unpaid leave for medical treatment, hiring readers or interpreters to assist an employee, providing temporary workplace specialists to assist in training, and transferring an employee to the same job in another location to obtain better medical care.
The employer has an obligation to work with the employee to tailor an approach that allows the employee to perform their job functions so long as the accommodation does not place an undue, extreme burden on the company.
According to ergonomic and job accommodation experts, the amount of money employers would need to pay to accommodate a particular worker’s disability is often surprisingly low: 31% of accommodations cost nothing, 50% cost less than $50, 69% cost less than $500 and 88% cost less than $1,000.
Are there tax incentives for hiring people with disabilities?
Yes, the IRS offers tax incentives for hiring people with disabilities. The government designs tax credits to encourage employers to hire individuals who might otherwise have difficulty finding employment. Businesses that make a concerted effort to identify and hire qualifying workers can receive Work Opportunity Tax Credits and other incentives that reduce federal tax liability or payroll costs.
Key groups that may qualify are participants in vocational rehabilitation, recent SSI recipients and recently separated veterans with a service related disability.
All businesses can apply for WOTC tax incentives for hiring people with disabilities. And, there is no limit to the number of qualifying new hires per year. These credits apply to a percentage of wages paid to the employee during their first year of employment. The amount of wages used varies by target group.
Mayor’s Committee Chair, Araz Valijan, who works as Project Development Coordinator for the City of Santa Clarita, spoke about the responsibilities and hopes of the Mayor’s Committee: “The Mayor’s Committee board members are dedicated to being a resource for our community. Our board is comprised of various professionals that serve to provide resources and training to those that seek employment. We are very familiar with the needs of individuals with disabilities and the benefits they bring to the workplace. We encourage potential employers to contact us, knowing that we are here to help.”
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