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Court Ruling Loosens Disabled Worker Quotas for Employers

Court Ruling Loosens Disabled Worker Quotas for Employers

People with disabilities experience everyday challenges that most able-bodied people do not face. In response, the Brazilian government adopted laws intended to ensure the inclusion of the disabled in society. One of those laws governs employment.

According to a 1991 law, companies are required to employ handicapped workers. Despite its good intentions, the law has not been popular with some companies that have had trouble finding disabled workers to fulfill the quotas. A new court ruling, however, is loosening that standard.

The number of workers with disabilities that a company must employ is determined by its total headcount, Bloomberg explains. Businesses with 100 to 500 employees must have a workforce employing enough disabled workers to comprise between 2 percent and 5 percent of their total workforce. For companies with more than 500 employees, the requirement is fixed at 5 percent. Companies that do not meet the handicapped worker quotas face fines.

Though quotas have been a legal requirement since 1991, Brazil’s labor ministry has more recently increased its enforcement of the law, explained Bloomberg. Companies have chafed at the law, arguing that it is too difficult to find enough disabled workers who are qualified for the available job openings.

American Glass Products, an international company with a production facility in Brazil, challenged its quota obligation in court. The company argued that despite efforts that included Internet advertisements and hiring employment agencies, it could not find enough qualified workers to fulfill its quota. A court ruled that the company had three months to meet its handicapped workers quota or pay more than $150,000 in fines. American Glass Products appealed.

In a May 30 ruling, the Supreme Labor Court said that a company able to show it was unable to meet the quota despite serious efforts to do so can be exempt from the requirement, Bloomberg reported. The court’s minister, João Batista Brito Pereira, acknowledged that American Glass Products made a good faith effort to find disabled workers and “could not be held responsible for its lack of success and therefore could not be fined.”

While the court decision involved American Glass Products, it could set an important precedent for other companies struggling to meet their quotas for workers with disabilities. José Alberto Couto Maciel, American Glass Products’ attorney, told Bloomberg that the decision makes progress by establishing a firm court position on a labor matter that had previously led to conflicting rulings.

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