Federal Regulation Regarding Individuals with Disabilities - Frequently Asked Questions

Federal Regulation Regarding Individuals with Disabilities - Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is MIT asking me to disclose my disability status?

As a federal contractor, MIT is subject to certain federal laws and regulations related to equal employment and affirmative action for individuals with disabilities. New federal regulations that went into effect on March 24, 2014, require us to ask all employees to self-identify their disability status at least once every five years.

The primary purpose of the new regulations is to collect aggregate data on the percentage of persons with disabilities in the workforce in order to help assess the effectiveness of our equal employment opportunity and affirmative action policies and programs.

2. Do I have to self-identify?

Providing disability information on the federal form is voluntary, but encouraged. As an MIT community member, your input helps strengthen and focus our diversity and inclusion efforts by giving MIT more data to evaluate and improve our recruiting, hiring, and retention processes. Because this form provides you with the option not to disclose your disability status (the third check box), we encourage all employees to at least complete the form. Completing the form during this survey ensures that the information we have is current and complete, and helps us to demonstrate compliance with Department of Labor regulations.

3. Where do the data go and who has access to it?

As stated in the email, the disability-related data from this survey will go into MIT’s Human Resource SAP-based Information system, along with other personal information such as gender, race, ethnicity, and veteran status. The HR staff members preparing the required reports and analysis use aggregate data – for example, the total number of employees in different types of jobs or in different work units who choose to self-identify as having a disability. The disability status of individuals is kept confidential in compliance with federal laws and regulations.

4. What is the relationship between this and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

These regulations stem from the obligations of Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was a later law on disabilities.

The regulations on self-identifying disabilities go beyond the anti-discrimination obligations of the ADA to require employers that are federal contractors to take proactive, affirmative steps to ensure equal employment opportunity. These regulations and the ADA both define a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

5. How were these medical conditions defined as disabilities?

The federal government determined which disabilities to list in the self-identification form, relying on the law and regulations under the ADA. Note that in any specific case, the law requires an individualized assessment in each situation. These conditions listed are examples of impairments that are virtually always found to be “disabilities” under the law, because they impose a substantial limitation on a major life activity.

This list is not exhaustive, and you do not need to specify a particular condition on the form. More information on the definition of a disability under federal law is available at: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/regulations/ada_qa_final_rule.cfm (starting at FAQ #5).

6. I don’t have any of the conditions listed on the form, does this mean I should check “No?”

Not necessarily. The conditions listed on the form are only examples commonly considered to be disabilities under the law. They are not the only examples. Whether or not you identify as a person with a disability is up to you.

7. Will these data ever be released to a third-party?

The data will be used internally within MIT in accordance with MIT’s equal opportunity, affirmative action, and diversity efforts. Confidentiality will be maintained in compliance with federal laws and regulations. These data may be released to the federal government during a compliance evaluation audit, or in response to certain legal processes.

8. Does this affect my health or life insurance?

Absolutely not. Your health and/or life insurance plan carrier will not have access to your disclosure regarding disability status.

9. What happens if I do nothing with this request?

Providing this information is strictly voluntary. However, we encourage you to provide this information so that MIT can better evaluate the effectiveness of our equal employment and affirmative action efforts as required by the Department of Labor.

When we ask you to disclose any disabilities, we are required to use form CC-305 supplied by the Department of Labor. Because this form provides the option not to disclose your disability status, we encourage all employees to at least complete the form. Completing the form ensures that the information we collect is current and complete, and helps us be compliant with Department of Labor regulations.

10. How does this affect student workers?

It does not. Student workers do not meet the definition of “employee” under these regulations, and are not included in this survey or MIT’s affirmative action plan for individuals with a disability.

11. How does an employee with a disability request an accommodation?

The Office of Disability Services can help an employee request an accommodation. You can contact the office at 617-253-4572.

12. How often are the data collected?

Federal contractors such as MIT are now required to solicit disability status from all applicants at the pre-offer stage of the application process, as well as to survey their existing workforce once every five years. Additionally, MIT is also required to notify employees at least once during the five-year period between surveys that they have the option to self-identify at any time.

13. How often are the data reported?

Federal contractors like MIT are now required to conduct a quantitative review to measure the effectiveness of their equal employment opportunity and affirmative action programs on an annual basis. These analyses will be shared with the Department of Labor during compliance review audits.

14. What happens if there is a change in my status?

You can change your disability status at any time. The “About Me” Personal Information Section of Atlas now includes the federal form (CC-305) used to collect this information. The form can be accessed on the Atlas site. Go to Self-Identification of Disability section; and then click on the “edit” link to get to the form.

15. How does the collection of this new disability information relate to the report of the Institute and Community Equity Officer (ICEO), Advancing a Respectful and Caring Community, published earlier this year?

The ICEO mission is to advance a respectful and caring community that embraces diversity and empowers everyone to learn and do their best at MIT. The collection of these data may help MIT analyze the progress towards achieving this mission for the members of the community with a disability.