Regulations implementing Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 state that federal agencies must be model employers (PDF) of individuals with disabilities. In addition, federal agencies must take affirmative action measures to promote the recruitment, hiring and advancement of qualified individuals with disabilities, with the goal of eliminating under-representation of people with disabilities in the federal workforce. Each federal agency is required to adopt and implement an affirmative action plan. The plan must require the agency to take specific steps, including the use of a special non-competitive hiring authority for individuals with disabilities called Schedule A.
On June 25, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order (EO) 14035: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce. The EO includes provisions to help support the recruitment, hiring and advancement of applicants and employees with disabilities, including assessing current practices agencies are using with regard to Schedule A.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has issued regulations implementing the use of the Schedule A hiring authority for individuals with disabilities [5 CFR §213.3102(u)]. Schedule A can serve as a quick and efficient means to increasing the hiring and advancement of qualified individuals with disabilities.
Important facts about Schedule A:
- Schedule A applicants must be qualified for the job—applicants are not guaranteed a job.
- Schedule A appointments may be made on a permanent, temporary or time-limited basis.
- Agencies may hire qualified Schedule A candidates without issuing a job announcement.
- Agencies can accept unsolicited applications for consideration under Schedule A, i.e., Schedule A applicants are not required to apply through USAJOBS or an agency’s website.
- Schedule A applicants can be accepted after the job announcement is posted and even after it closes.
- Schedule A allows human resources specialists and/or selective placement program coordinators to send the resumes of qualified applicants directly to managers.
The goal of Schedule A is for individuals with disabilities to obtain civil service competitive status through conversion to the competitive service after completion of two years of satisfactory service.
Candidates are eligible for Schedule A if they:
- Have an intellectual disability, severe physical disability or psychiatric disability, including individuals with a targeted disability;
- Have written proof (documentation) of disability from a qualified professional, including a licensed medical professional, a licensed state or private vocational rehabilitation specialist or any federal or state government agency that issues or provides disability benefits (example proof letter) prior to the agency making the appointment; and
- Meet the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) qualification standards for all federal positions for which they are applying.
Once a prospective candidate is identified, a hiring manager, Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC) or Disability Program Manager (DPM) should contact their agency’s human resources (HR) department or office for help in getting the applicant on board. An HR representative will then consult with the manager, SPPC or DPM to decide what type of appointment should be offered.
Important note: The hiring manager should not be involved in the disability documentation process, as medical documentation must be kept strictly confidential.
In addition to guidance provided by OPM, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers a series of guides, titled “The ABCs of Schedule A,” that provide information about Schedule A for various audiences, including hiring managers, HR professionals, Disability Program Managers and Selective Placement Program Coordinators, service providers and applicants with disabilities.
Schedule A and the Workforce Recruitment Program
An additional tool federal hiring managers can use to find qualified candidates with disabilities is the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). Co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Defense, the WRP connects federal employers nationwide with highly motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities seeking summer internships or permanent jobs. All participants selected for the program go through an extensive screening process and represent a wide range of skill sets and academic majors.
Since it was launched government-wide in 1995, more than 7,000 individuals have obtained positions through the WRP, many going on to become full-time federal employees. As such, it can play a critical role in helping federal agencies meet their disability employment goals. Federal hiring managers can hire participants from the WRP database using either Schedule A or another hiring authority called Schedule D (also known as the Pathways Program). Visit EARN’s WRP webpage for more information.
Veterans and Schedule A
Veterans who meet the eligibility requirements for Schedule A may apply for positions using Schedule A. Candidates who are disabled veterans may also be eligible under another hiring authority, Veterans’ Preference, which gives eligible veterans preference in appointment over many other applicants. For more information, visit the OPM’s Veterans Services webpage.