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February 16, 2017 blog

Legislation Mandates Disability Inclusion Efforts by Federal Contractors and Subcontractors

Despite 25 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities continue to face barriers to employment equality. In 2012, the overall employment rate of adults with disabilities was 33.5%, as compared to 76.3% for others.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law on July 22, 2014 to help knock down those barriers. This legislation reauthorizes and updates the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the law providing oversight of the public vocational rehabilitation system), while also updating the structure of the country’s workforce development system, used by the general public and businesses to assist  with their employment and training needs. While there are many changes under WIOA, one important piece that I will focus on in this blog post is Section 503.

Section 503 aims to decrease the disparity connecting job seekers with disabilities and federal contractors and subcontractors through the workforce development system.

The new rules strengthen the enforcement of the ADA and put into place new employer requirements around recruiting, hiring, and accommodating individuals with disabilities. Employers with federal government contracts or subcontracts in excess of $10,000 are required to track progress toward employing individuals with disabilities. This is referred to in the legislation as a utilization or aspiration goal; covered employers must now attain, or show progress toward attaining, a workforce that consists of at least seven percent of people with disabilities.

Under the new rules, employers should invite job applicants and existing employees to self-identify as a person with a disability, if they choose. All self-identification information must be kept separate from other personnel records and cannot be available or used for any employment decisions. Employers should also create partnerships with disability organizations to assist in finding and recruiting qualified job applicants with disabilities. Collectively, these efforts will increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities as well as diversify the workforce of federal government contractors and subcontractors while simultaneously meeting their business needs by filling positions with qualified, skilled professionals.

References: Erickson, W.; Lee, C.; von Schrader, S. (2014). 2012 Disability Status Report: United States. Ithaca, NY:Cornell University Employment and Disability Institute (EDI).41 C.F.R. § 60-741

Written by: Page Eastin, Client Assistance Program, Iowa Department of Human Rights

Honoring Civil Rights hero Fred Korematsu

Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu, 1919–2005 was a Japanese-American internment protester, b. Oakland, Calif. In 1942 when President F. D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which specified that West Coast residents of Japanese descent be treated as enemy aliens and interned at government camps, 23 year old Korematsu challenged the orders and refused to comply.

ACLU represented Fred Korematsu in Korematsu v. United States. He was arrested, jailed and found guilty in federal court for his bold denial.  The ACLU took his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that the exclusion and detention laws violated basic constitutional rights. The Supreme Court ruled against ACLU in 1944, and upheld Korematsu’s conviction and the war measures as constitutional.

The legality of the internment order was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in Korematsu v. United States. This ruling has never been explicitly overturned. Korematsu’s conviction for evading internment was overturned decades later after the disclosure of new evidence challenging the necessity of the internment, evidence which had been withheld from the courts by the U.S. government during the war.

After the war, he returned to the San Francisco Bay area. In 1982, he was approached by legal historian Peter Irons, who had discovered documents supporting Korematsu's case that had been suppressed by government attorneys. Korematsu agreed to refight the case, and in 1983 his original conviction was overturned. Korematsu subsequently became for many a symbol of principled resistance to government-imposed injustice. 

To commemorate his journey as a civil rights activist, the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution was observed for the first time on January 30, 2011, by the State of California, first such commemoration for an Asian American in the United States. In 2015, Virginia passed legislation to make it the second state to permanently recognize each January 30 as Fred Korematsu Day.

Written by: Sanjita Pradhan, Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, Iowa Department of Human Rights

Feb 19, A Day of Remembrance; today it is a reminder to continue to fight injustice

On Feb 19, 1942, exactly 75 years ago, shortly after the Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent were stripped of their rights and property under the guise of national security. These actions were ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt through an executive order 9066. Sixty-two percent of the internees were U.S Citizens.

They were packed into trains and buses and moved from their West Coast homes — to temporary holding stations at fairgrounds and racing tracks, and then to permanent camps in remote parts of Idaho, California, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas and Arkansas.

Today, Asian American social justice activists see the internment of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II as one of the darkest period in American history. It is sad that while the story of WW II is covered in most school curriculum, the story of American citizens who were stripped of their civil liberties here on American soil during that war is often omitted.

Therefore, it is on us to keep these stories of injustice, removal, discrimination, hate and exclusion but also a story of courage, strength, resilience and redemption alive.

In communities across the country, the Day of Remembrance is commemorated on Feb 19 of each year with events to promote education and understanding about this dark chapter in American history.

The Day of Remembrance is a reminder that we cannot let down our guard against injustice even as we move farther from the events of World War II. We must find purpose in this history, seeking out its lessons and reaching out to educate others across different generations and diverse communities.

Written by: Sanjita Pradhan, Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, Iowa Department of Human Rights