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Inclusive Hiring: Applicable Laws and Regulations

Learn about federal laws and regulations that impact the hiring process.

To build an inclusive workplace, your organization must ensure that all qualified people, with and without disabilities, can participate in the hiring process. Several laws govern how employers must ensure they are not discriminating against people with disabilities in the hiring process.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is civil rights legislation that aims 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 employers and state and local government employers with 15 or more employees. It also applies to employment agencies, labor unions and joint labor management committees, regardless of the number of employees. Title II of the ADA covers public entities’ programs, activities and services. The law prohibits public entities (e.g., 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. The ADA also restricts what employers may and may not ask during the recruiting and application process and the use of pre-employment screenings. Important components of the ADA to consider during the hiring process also include asking questions related to a person’s disability and medical inquiries.

The Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 includes several sections that impact hiring people with disabilities. 

  • Section 501 prohibits federal agencies from discriminating against people with disabilities in employment. Section 501 also requires agencies to take proactive steps to recruit and retain people with disabilities. EARN’s 501 Information Center lays out important information about this law for federal agencies. You can learn more about the Federal Framework for Disability Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Inclusion (DEIA) and using the Schedule A hiring authority and Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) to hire employees with disabilities.
  • Section 503 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against people with disabilities. It directs the federal contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, retain and advance people 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 about its requirements 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 eRecruiting tools— is accessible. 

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was enacted in 2014 to address challenges facing the U.S. workforce, including shortages in the numbers of workers with postsecondary education and the lack of workforce participation by people with disabilities. WIOA supports employment of people with disabilities by funding efforts by state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies to assist employers in providing employment and work-based learning opportunities, including apprenticeships and internships. WIOA also funds services for youth and young adults, including those with disabilities, to help them develop workplace skills and gain work experience. To learn more about how WIOA supports employment of people with disabilities, visit the WIOA webpage.

Executive Orders

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: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce in 2021. The EO establishes that the Federal Government must be a model for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA), and outlines procedures to advance these priorities across the federal workforce. EARN offers a factsheet and themes document to help federal employers better understand the requirements of EO 14035. To learn more about EO 14035, visit the EO 14035 Info Center.

Veterans Legislation

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 specified 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 Rehabilitation Act, VEVRAA is administered by OFCCP, which provides information on its VEVRAA webpage.

Financial Incentives

Federal and state governments sometimes offer financial incentives to increase employment of people with disabilities. 

Employer Financial Incentives

Employers can capitalize on the value and talent people with disabilities offer America’s workplaces with both federal and state government financial incentives. This page provides information on federal incentives and links to available state incentives.

Employer Tax Incentives Available from the Federal Government

Private-sector employers can apply for federal tax incentives to encourage employment of people with disabilities. This page provides details about the tax incentives and how employers can apply.