Major Employment Law Change Set for Monday, March 24


For Immediate Release

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Contact: Lori Becker; 314-724-4310 (M), 314-588-7090 (O);


What St. Louis Businesses Must Know Monday Morning

Steve Degnan, Chief Human Resources Officer for Nestl Purina PetCare Company and Starkloff Disability Institute board member, and David Newburger, SDI Director

St. Louis, Mo. Beginning Monday, March 24th, businesses that work with the Federal Government will be required to set goals to employ people with disabilities at a rate of 7 percent and in doing so, keep track of their progress. This may mean many changes in personnel departments and workplaces. St. Louis-based Starkloff Disability Institute is working with the region’s major employers to understand the new requirements, which will include asking employees to self-identify any disabilities.

The new law permits companies to invite employees to self-disclose a disability, allowing the company to conduct an internal census. With this data, companies can make sure their recruiting and hiring practices do not inadvertently exclude qualified candidates with disabilities. But, no employee has to disclose a disability unless he or she wants to.

This rule change stems from an effort to combat chronic unemployment of people with disabilities. Most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2012:

  • The unemployment rate for non-disabled Americans stood at 8 percent, but almost doubled to 15 percent for people with disabilities;
  • The workforce participation rate for non-disabled Americans was 31.6 percent, while 76.5 percent of people with disabilities in the same age group were out of the work force entirely;
  • Median household income for a person reporting a disability was $25,420, compared to $59,411 for someone without a disability”

These numbers remain unchanged over the past 40 years despite dramatic improvements in access to physical workplaces, technology, and policy,” says attorney David Newburger, co-director of SDI. “Many people with disabilities want to work but face barriers.”

SDI prepares people with disabilities to compete for competitive jobs and, in doing so, changes attitudes throughout corporate America. Their program, ‘The Next Big Step’ is unique in that participants mostly college graduates undergo 15 weeks of intensive training and learn to market themselves as professionals who happen to disabilities. Some of the companies that work with SDI participate in the training

Nestle Purina is a federal contractor subject to Section 503 and a partner with SDI. “We began our partnership with SDI years ago because we believed in their mission and we thought Nestle could help. SDI now gives us guidance and resources we need to understand this new regulation,” notes Steve Degnan, Chief Human Resources Officer of North America, Nestle Purina. “We are so grateful for this partnership.”

Disabled job seekers face a variety of barriers in the hiring process, mostly unrecognized by corporations. SDI works with corporations to help them understand and remove these barriers, change attitudes in the workplace and form inclusive corporate cultures. SDI has trained over 250 hiring managers in the St. Louis region in 2013 and 2014, including skills such as appropriate interviewing techniques, accessible websites and testing, accessible facilities, and working out reasonable accommodations.

If you are a disabled job seeker or a company looking for information about employing qualified people with disabilities, please contact the Starkloff Disability Institute at 314-588-7090 or visit our website at

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