Effective March 24, 2014 federal contractors and subcontractors subject to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Rehabilitation Act”) or the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (“VEVRAA”) must comply with new affirmative action requirements for individuals with disabilities and for veterans. New OFCCP regulations were issued as Final Rules on September 24, 2013 to further the purposes of the Rehabilitation Act and VEVRRA, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability, and status as a protected veteran. The new rules are aimed at providing more job opportunities for applicants and employees who have disabilities or are veterans. Current federal contractors that already have affirmative action programs will have additional time to ensure their programs are in compliance with the new regulations.
The Final Rules to Improve Job Opportunities for Protected Veterans and Qualified Individuals with Disabilities (“QIWD”) require contractors to, among other things:
• Collect data and update quantitative comparisons on the number of veteran and QIWD job applicants and hires;
• Request applicants (pre- and post- offer) to complete a self-identification form (see below);
• Use specific equal opportunity language when incorporating the EEO clause into a subcontract;
• Create job opening listings in compliance with State and local job services;
• Allow the OFCCP to review documents for compliance checks.
In addition, contractors hiring protected veterans must elect between two methods to establish veteran hiring benchmarks. Contractors must also establish for each job group a 7% hiring goal of qualified individuals with disabilities. However, the commentary that accompanies the Final Rules clarifies that 7 percent is “not a quota or a ceiling, but is a management tool that informs decision-making and provides real accountability,” and failure to meet the goal “will not lead to a fine, penalty, or sanction.” Small employers will be expected to make progress on the 7% goal across their workforce as a whole, rather than on a job group basis.
Federal contractors and subcontractors must provide a self-identification form requesting self-disclosure of disabled status to job applicants before and after each applicant receives a job offer, and to employees every five years. Completion of these forms is entirely voluntary.
The OFCCP has made available a Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability form to be used by covered contractors at the OFCCP’s website at http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/.