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Disability Employment Policy Resources by Topic

Negotiating with Employers

A n essential element in Customized Employment is negotiating job duties or employee expectations to align the skills and interests of a job seeker with a disability to an employer's needs. This negotiation results in a job description that describes a customized relationship between employer and employee. Rather than trying to sell employers on the concept of hiring people with disabilities, it is better to appeal directly to the employers' needs. The goal is to negotiate Customized Employment options that benefit both the employer and the job seeker.

Where to Start?

Get to know the person. Customized Employment starts with an applicant exploration process that leads to an employment plan based on the job seeker's customized planning process. (See the "Job Seeker Exploration" and "Creating a Blueprint" fact sheets.) The customized planning process also identifies potential employers for job development negotiation.

Get to know employers. The employers to become familiar with include those identified by the job seeker during the customized planning process. Once identified, arrange informational interviews — not to sell the business on your services or a particular job seeker, but to learn about the business and how it works.

Find negotiation points. After learning about specific businesses, figure out how they can benefit from your services and the job seeker you represent.

Identify Employers

As a resource for planning, an initial survey of potential employers should be broad and include any employer who might potentially fit the job seeker. The job seeker's plan should then drive the process of identifying specific employers. Additional suggestions can come from:

  • The job seeker — ask about employers they know
  • The job seeker's family, friends, and neighbors
  • Local business publications and the business section of the paper
  • Local business associations such as the Chamber of Commerce
  • The personal representative's own contacts

Get Your Foot in the Door

Once you have researched area businesses, a good way to learn about them is to visit for informational interviews. Ask how the business operates and what its staffing needs are. Informational interviews are chances to attract employer interest in Customized Employment.

It is also possible to directly solicit specific employers, identified during the planning meeting, who are called upon for the purpose of convincing them to consider hiring the job seeker. Such solicitations need to include a proposal that balances the two issues described above: a) the needs of the employer and b) the potential contributions of the applicant. Regardless of which approach job developers use, successful customized employment requires successful negotiation. The following strategies will assist in negotiating with employers.

Find Negotiation Points

Once you have become acquainted with an employer and their needs, look for ways in which your service and the job seeker you represent can benefit the business by improving operations or increasing profits.

Negotiation points may include:

  • The responsibilities of the position as listed in the job description
  • The time, hours, and location for the job in question
  • The support strategies and supervision the job seeker will need
  • Productivity and outcome expectations

Such negotiation points are defined by job seeker and employer preferences.

Present the Proposal

The goal of the customized planning process is to identify a set of tasks the job seeker can perform. Using those tasks and the employer research, the job seeker and the personal representative build a proposal to present to the potential employer.

The preliminary proposal describes the job seeker's skills and how they will benefit the employer. The employer may accept the proposal, suggest modifications to it, or reject it. If the original proposal is not accepted, the discussion can lead to a revised proposal that satisfies both the employer and the job seeker.

Employer participation in this process is always voluntary. The willingness to customize a job description is a decision on the employer's part, not a legal requirement.

Options to Customize a Job Description

  • Job carving. A job description is created by modifying an existing job description. The carved job description contains one or more, but not all, of the tasks from the original job description.
  • Negotiating a job description. The job seeker and the personal representative pick from all the tasks performed at the workplace to create a new, individualized job description.
  • Job creation. A newly created job description is negotiated based on unmet workplace needs.
  • Job sharing. Two or more people share the tasks and responsibilities of a job based on each other's strengths.

Customized Employment Success Story

A large department store hired Scott, a job seeker with a disability, after several informational visits by his personal representative, Shaina, who negotiated a new way for the store to handle merchandise delivery. Originally, store clerks unloaded and repackaged new merchandise. Shaina suggested that the job seeker perform this task. This customized job freed the clerks to spend more time serving customers. As a result, sales increased.

Negotiate for Employer Gain

The job seeker and the personal representative need to be prepared to show how the proposal will help an employer improve operations. This is probably your most important bargaining point when a job seeker with a disability might need unusual or extensive accommodations or supports. Some of the best customized employment opportunities are created when options for employer gain are targeted. Focus the customized job description on the contribution to the employer, not competition with other job seekers.

Employers gain when:

  • Work gets done faster or more precisely
  • Employees become more productive
  • Profit increases
  • Work can be reorganized to flow better
  • Overburdened employees can be relieved
  • Operations become more efficient

When the business sees potential gain, it is ready to consider hiring a job seeker who might require changes in the workplace.

Informational Interview Pointers

  • Ask to meet with a knowledgeable person in the business.
  • Make the meeting request easy to fulfill. Say, "I'd like to find out more about your business so I can better understand the human resource needs in your industry," or "I'm really interested in [industry type]. Is it possible for me to briefly visit and get more information?"
  • Be prepared: Research the business thoroughly, and prepare questions for the meeting. How does the work get done? What are some of the biggest staffing challenges?
  • Indicate an interest in understanding the business's staffing needs and that you may be able to meet them.
  • Keep it short. Respect the employer's time — 15 to 20 minutes should be more than enough.
  • Thank the employer for their time. When you get back to your office, send a written thank-you note.

Information for these fact sheets came from:

Michael Callahan of Marc Gold & Associates/EfA (; Richard Luecking of TransCen, Inc. ( and the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor.

For additional information on Customized Employment, contact:

Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor
Voice: 1.866.633.7365
TTY: 1.877.889.5627
Fax: 1.202.693.7888


Voice: 617.287.4365
TTY: 617.287.4350


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