In a press release issued on its website, the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has issued a notice requesting the public’s input on ways it can strengthen its regulations that require federal contractors to take affirmative action in employing and advancing individuals with disabilities. The regulations implemented Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, which is the law prohibiting discrimination and requiring employers with federal contracts or subcontracts of greater than $10,000 to take affirmative steps in hiring, retaining and promoting qualified individuals with disabilities.
The OFCCP has specifically asked for the public’s opinion on the following questions:
- How can the affirmative action requirements of Section 503 be strengthened to measurably increase employment opportunities of covered contractors for individuals with disabilities? If available, include examples or information illustrating the effectiveness of the suggested new requirements.
- What measures have contractors and subcontractors taken to fulfill the current affirmative action requirements of Section 503? How much did these measures cost?
- What barriers currently impede Federal contractors from hiring people with disabilities?
- Are there changes that could be made to the existing language on permissible qualifications standards that would better ensure equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities?
- If OFCCP were to require federal contractors to conduct utilization analyses and to establish hiring goals for individuals with disabilities, comparable to the analyses and establishment of goals required under the regulations implementing Executive Order 11246, what data should be examined in order to identify the appropriate availability pool of such individuals for employment?
- Would the establishment of placement goals for individuals with disabilities measurably increase their employment opportunities in the federal contractor sector? Explain why or why not.
- What experience have federal contractors had with respect to disability employment goals programs voluntarily undertaken or required by state, local or foreign governments?
- What specific employment practices have been verifiably effective in recruiting, hiring, advancing, and retaining individuals with disabilities?
- To what extent does workplace flexibility, including flexibility in work schedules, as well as job-protected leave, impact recruitment and retention of individuals with disabilities?
- Has training of employees and/or managers been effective in increasing advancement and/or retention of individuals with disabilities? If so, how?
- Federal contractors are required to invite all job applicants to voluntarily and confidentially identify their race and gender pre-offer. The collection of this information allows contractors to monitor the impact of their employment practices by race and gender and to assess progress in meeting their affirmative action goals. Existing Section 503 regulations require contractors to invite applicants to voluntarily and confidentially self-identify as a person with a disability after making an offer of employment, but before the applicant begins employment. Would amending the Section 503 regulations to require contractors to invite all applicants to voluntarily and confidentially self-identify if they have a disability prior to an offer of employment enhance a federal contractor’s ability to more effectively monitor their hiring practices with respect to applicants with disabilities? Note that a Section 503 regulation requiring contractors to invite voluntary and confidential self-identification as an applicant with a disability pre-offer for affirmative action purposes would not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- How can linkage agreements between federal contractors and organizations that focus on the employment of individuals with disabilities be strengthened to increase effectiveness? Do linkage agreements have better outcomes when higher level company officials are responsible for their implementation/execution? Include examples of cooperative agreements between employers and disability or community recruitment organizations that have been helpful in hiring persons with disabilities.
- What impact would result from requiring that Federal contractors and subcontractors make information and communication technology used by job applicants in the job application process, and by employees in connection with their employment fully accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities? What are the specific costs and/or benefits that might result from this requirement?
- What other specific changes to the Section 503 regulations might improve the recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement of individuals with disabilities by federal contractors?
- Regulatory Flexibility Act–Consistent with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the Department must consider the impacts of any proposed rule on small entities, including small businesses, small nonprofit organizations and small governmental jurisdictions with populations under 50,000. The Department of Labor encourages small entities to provide data on how additional requirements under Section 503 may impact them.
- OFCCP seeks public comment on the types of small entities and any estimates of the numbers of small entities that may be impacted by this rule.
- OFCCP seeks public comment on the potential costs of additional 503 requirements on small entities.
- OFCCP seeks public comment on any possible alternatives to the proposed measures that would allow the agency to achieve their regulatory objectives while minimizing any adverse impact to small businesses.
The deadline for receiving comments is September 21, 2010. To read the OFCCP’s notice, click here.