Horizon Air Industries, Inc
Promising Practice in Workplace PAS: Security Clearance for Personal Assistant
Lewis Kraus M.P.H., M.C.P.
Lita Jans Ph.D.
Susan Stoddard Ph.D.
Center for Personal Assistance Service
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 320
Berkeley, CA 94710-2566
Summary of the promising practice
The practice of providing security clearance for personal assistants (PAs) of employees with disabilities allows those employees the same unrestricted access utilized by their peers without disabilities. Once the PA has been approved for security clearance, he or she can assist the employee with a disability in restricted areas, and may also enter those areas alone to fetch materials needed by the employee with a disability. This allows the employee with a disability and the PA complete, unrestricted, easy access without interrogation by others.
The company provides information about the security clearance process to all employees via new employee orientations and new leader orientation classes, including information about accommodations for people with disabilities.
Organization that uses this practice
Horizon Air is a regional airline with 4,000 employees that serves 45 cities in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, British Columbia and Alberta. Horizon's general office is in Seattle, with maintenance bases in Portland, Boise, Seattle, Pasco and Spokane. Horizon has a reputation for customer service, maintained, according to its web site, "through its exceptional employees who are known for their dedication and friendliness." One of these exceptional employees, a pilot who also was a pilot ground instructor, became disabled in a motorcycle accident in 1998. His severe disability did not allow him to continue as a pilot, but he was able to work as a pilot ground instructor after rehabilitation. In order for this highly skilled employee to work he needed a personal assistant (PA) to help him on the job with work related tasks and some personal care needs.
Horizon Airlines already had a system of security clearances for vendors who provide services on its property, and this service was extended to include security clearance to allow the employee's PA appropriate access to the facilities. Description of the promising practice
Security clearance for vendors who provide services had been in place for many years. Previously only a photo identification badge was required to access the premises. More recent security measures required fingerprinting, as well as a programmable badge that can be coded for access to the areas of access permitted to that vendor or employee. Horizon Airlines has adapted and extended the security clearance process to accommodate employees with PAS needs and their PAs.
PAs go through the same process as people working for contract services, such as janitorial, vending machine and food services. In the case of contract services, the hiring company conducts background checks for employees who will be servicing or need access to the airline premises. In this case, the PA was employed by an agency that conducted the criminal background check. Once that was completed, the airline fingerprinted the PA who then received a badge. (This process might have been more difficult if the PA had been hired directly by the employee with a disability, rather than by an agency.) . The PA was issued a vendor badge that allows her access to all the areas where the employee with a disability works, including the maintenance and training areas. The training area includes ramp services, flight attendant and pilot training, the dispatch area, the library, the FAA compliance department, and the schedules area. The person with the disability supervises the PA on the job.
Costs of the promising practice
For the security clearance practice, Horizon Airlines provided the finger printing at a nominal cost of about $100.
Benefits and challenges
By arranging for security clearance for an employee's PA, Horizon Airlines has been able to retain a valued employee with much-needed skills to train pilots and to enhance its training program.
Costs to the company are nominal.
The employee with the disability said that the security clearance for his PA allows him and his assistant access to the areas he needs so that he can effectively do his job.
At this time, only one employee has security clearance for his PA, but the company's experience with this employee has enabled the Human Resources Department to establish an accommodation that may be needed by future employees with disabilities, especially given the importance of security in the airline industry. If an employee forgets his or her security badge, there is a temporary badge available. However, under temporary badging, the employee has to accompany his PA to key coded lock systems, she cannot go into those areas alone.
Transferability to other organizations or industries.
The practice is easily transferable to other organizations that are familiar with security clearance processes. It only requires organization to do routine background checks.
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