Inclusive Advancement: Applicable Laws & Regulations
Learn about federal laws and regulations that impact advancement activities.
To ensure an inclusive workplace, organizations need to make sure that everyone can participate in advancement opportunities and move forward in their careers. There are laws that govern how employers must go about achieving non-discrimination in advancement opportunities in the workplace.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is civil rights legislation that works to increase the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of community life, including employment. The ADA prevents discrimination based on disability for private, state, and local government employers, with 15 or more employees. The law also applies to employment agencies, labor unions and joint labor management committees, regardless of the number of employees. Title II of the ADA covers programs, activities and services of public entities. As part of this, it prohibits public entities such as state and local governments, regardless of size of workforce, from discriminating against people with disabilities in their employment practices. Thus, all state and local government employers are covered.
At the heart of the ADA’s employment provisions is the concept of reasonable accommodations. A reasonable accommodation is considered any modification to the work environment, or the way a job is done, that enables someone with a disability to apply for or perform a job. Reasonable accommodation policies and practices have an impact on the ability of people with disabilities to advance within your organization. Reasonable accommodations should be provided to ensure employees can perform the essential functions of the position and also to ensure they can access the benefits and privileges of employment, including professional development opportunities and other means of advancement.
The Rehabilitation Act
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 includes several sections that impact advancement for people with disabilities.
- Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits federal agencies from discrimination. It requires them to take proactive steps to employ people with disabilities, and advance them in employment. The 501 Information Center lays out important information about this law for federal agencies. You can learn more about ensuring advancement opportunities for federal employees with disabilities by reading the Federal Framework for Disability Inclusion.
- Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act directs the affirmative action and non-discrimination requirements of federal contractors and subcontractors. In doing business with the Federal Government, both federal contractors and subcontractors, assume certain obligations. They are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of disability, and must take affirmative action to advance employees with disabilities. Section 503 is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). OFCCP offers extensive information on its Section 503 webpage.
- Section 504 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, or by any program or activity conducted by a federal executive agency or the U.S. Postal Service. In addition to protecting people with disabilities who apply to and participate in such programs, Section 504 covers job applicants and employees of the organizations that provide them.
- Section 508 covers information and communications technology. It requires federal agencies’ information and communications technology to be accessible to people with disabilities—including job applicants. While Section 508 only applies to federal agencies, many private employers have adapted its standards as a way to ensure their technology infrastructure—including technology related to opportunities for professional development and other means of advancement — is accessible.
The President of the United States can issue Executive Orders (EOs) to manage the operations of the executive branch of government. President Biden released Executive Order 14035 in 2021 to address Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce. The EO establishes that the Federal Government must be a model for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA). It also outlines procedures to advance these priorities across the federal workforce. EARN offers a fact sheet (PDF) and themes document (PDF) to help federal employers better understand the requirements of EO 14035. Visit EARN’s History of Federal Disability Employment Efforts webpage for an overview of Executive Orders and Management Directives related to federal employment of people with disabilities.
The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) requires employers with federal contracts or subcontracts of $100,000 or more to take affirmative action to employ specific categories of veterans, advance them in employment, and prohibits discrimination against them. VEVRAA’s categories of protected veterans include disabled veterans. Like Section 503 of the Rehab Act, OFCCP administers VEVRAA and offers information about it on its VEVRAA webpage.