Why are they asking about Disabilities? Affirmative Action Program is One Reason
The reason why many employers ask about disabilities is because they have federal contracts and therefore an Affirmative Action Program or Plan.
Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act requires covered federal contractors to invite applicants to self-identify as an individual with a disability during the pre-offer and post-offer phases of the application process, and to invite employees to self-identify every five years. The form most commonly used is from the Department of Labor site called Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability Form CC-305
Companies with Federal Contracts have Affirmative Action Plans and try to reach a 7% utilization goal. If they are a contractor with a total workforce of 100 or fewer employees, they can apply the goal to their total workforce instead of job groups or EEO-1 categories
The company needs to track how many individuals with disabilities are currently in their workforce and in what job groups or EEO-1 job categories, as applicable. The form itself can be misleading; it cites particular disabilities in the body of the form, when all an applicant or employee has to check is: YES, I HAVE A DISABILITY (or previously had a disability) or NO, I DON’T HAVE A DISABILITY or I DON’T WISH TO ANSWER. The second page of the form discusses how Federal law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities. Further it states:
“Please tell us if you require a reasonable accommodation to apply for a job or to perform your job. Examples of reasonable accommodation include making a change to the application process or work procedures, providing documents in an alternate format, using a sign language interpreter, or using specialized equipment”.
After this there is a very short line. ______________If you do not currently know what accommodation you need you can write “Unknown at this time”
They do not ask for any proof of disability at this point.
This is a simplistic explanation for applicants and employees. The HR particulates for Affirmative Action plans and programs are much longer in explanation. Please use the link and look over the form Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability Form CC-305