Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed an order recently promoting diversity in the government workforce by hiring more people with disabilities, Government House announced Thursday.
DeJongh signed Executive Order No. 469-2014, "To Advance Employment Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities within the Government of the United States Virgin Islands."
"The government is the largest employer in the territory, so we must set the standard for equal employment for residents with disabilities," deJongh said. "By this order, we will promote diversity among the workforce by recruiting, hiring, retaining and promoting workers with disabilities, and by establishing firm policies and procedures for all government departments and agencies."
The governor said the policy strives to decrease the stigma associated with disabilities and increase territory-wide employment opportunities for those with disabilities.
The order became effective on July 25, 2014.
The Government House statement estimated that 20 percent of the territory’s residents live with disabilities, and as a result have a higher rate of employment discrimination and a far higher rate of poverty than those without disabilities.
Executive Order No. 469-2014 mandates that within 60 days the Division of Personnel will:
- establish a system to collect and report voluntary information from employees and applicants who have disabilities;
- work with the commissioner of Labor and a panel of stakeholders to be appointed by the governor to design a plan for recruitment and hiring of those with disabilities, and;
- develop policies, standards and guides for the training of all government employees on "equal employment opportunity, etiquette, inclusion and reasonable accommodation of individuals with disabilities in the workforce."
"It is my expectation that this executive order will continue to correct deficiencies in governmental practices relative to individuals with disabilities and make a lasting and better change for the Virgin Islands," deJongh said.
"I appointed the first American with Disabilities Act Coordinator in 2010, re-established the Virgin Islands Developmental Disabilities Council in 2011, and departments and agencies are committed to addressing deficiencies noted by the Department of Justice. It is important to me that each Virgin Islander has the same opportunities, no matter their physical or mental condition, and, if necessary, we will force the change to strengthen our community through compassion, understanding and acceptance."
The order also assigns the Department of Property and Procurement the task of surveying all government-owned and leased buildings to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and access to employees with mobility issues.
Each department, agency and instrumentality of the government is required to designate a member of senior staff to be responsible for "enhancement of employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities."