Here Come the Disabled-Employee Quotas

I’ve got a new op-ed in the Daily Caller about one of the most significant employment-law initiatives out of Washington in years (also reported on by Melanie Trottman in today’s WSJ): the Obama administration is preparing to order federal contractors to comply with a quota (sorry, “required…hiring goal”) of disabled employees, perhaps as high as 7 percent. Businesses have flooded the Regulations.gov comments site with negative reactions to the idea, but to no seeming avail. As I explain, one of the scheme’s maddening aspects is that you’re supposed to achieve the quota even though you’re not allowed to ask employees whether or not they’re disabled:

So the rules contemplate a fan dance of “invited self-identification” in which workers are given repeated chances at successive stages of the hiring process to announce that they are disabled. Unfortunately for quota compliance, even after getting the job an employee may be too shy to offer such a self-identification, which means the employer may lose any “credit” for the hire. Perhaps equally frustrating, an employee hired with the quota in mind may turn out not to have any disability at all (“Dang it! And she looked so disabled!”).

The employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its associated Rehabilitation Act are already rife with absurd results. Last week, after a Colorado school bus driver who hit three middle school students turned out to have been hired though recently in rehab, a spokesman for the school district explained that the law was at work: “It is illegal under state and federal disability laws to deny employment solely on the basis of a history of treatment for alcohol or substance abuse.” Non-discrimination against school bus drivers with a taste for booze is bizarre enough, but not bizarre enough for Washington. Time for preference!