Federal contractors and subcontractors must soon meet a hiring goal for workers with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Aug. 27. New regulations have been finalized that will, among other things, require contractors to ensure that workers with disabilities make up 7 percent of their workforces.
In addition to the hiring goal, the rules require that contractors maintain comparisons of the number of individuals with disabilities who apply for jobs and the number they actually hire. It also requires contractors to invite applicants and employees to self-identify as individuals with disabilities. Language for these invitations will be provided on DOL’s website soon.
The regulations also mandate specific language for contractors’ equal opportunity subcontract clauses and clarify that contractors must allow DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to review their records upon request. In addition, the rules incorporate changes made by the ADA Amendments Act.
The new regulations implement part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination in hiring and employment practices by the federal government and entities receiving federal funds against those with a disability. Section 503 applies to federal contractors and subcontractors.
OFCCP noted that the final regulations differ somewhat from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. “OFCCP received more than 400 comments on the NPRM from contractors, disability rights organizations, and others during the public comment period,” the office said. “In light of the comments, we made several changes in the Final Rule. The result is a Final Rule that increases contractor accountability for compliance with their affirmative action obligations, but provides contractors with greater flexibility than the NPRM originally proposed.”
When the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was issued, Congress expressed concern that the goal would amount to a quota. Furthermore, “[w]e question the legal authority under Section 503 permitting OFCCP to establish a numerical hiring standard,” members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce wrote in a letter to Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis. But OFCCP did not respond and moved ahead with the rulemaking.
DOL also announced, on Aug. 27, regulations strengthening the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act. The rules will require federal contractors to adopt a hiring goal for veterans. They must establish a benchmark, either based on the national percentage of veterans in the workforce — which is 8 percent, according to DOL — or based on the best available data and factors unique to their establishments.
The regulations will take effect 180 days after they appear in the Federal Register. Watch hr.complianceexpert.com for more coverage.