Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Improving Job Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities - Part 2

Yesterday we discussed the Labor Department's proposed rules for Government contractors designed to improve job opportunities for individuals with disabilities. These rules will require federal contractors and subcontractors to set a hiring goal of having seven percent of their workforces be people with disabilities, among other requirements.

These proposed rules would strengthen the affirmative action requirements established in Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 obligating federal contractors and subcontractors to ensure equal employment opportunities for qualified workers with disabilities. The proposed regulatory changes detail specific actions contractors must take in the areas of recruitment, training, record-keeping and policy dissemination - similar to those that have long been required to promote workplace equality for women and minorities.

According to Secretary of Labor, Hilda L. Solis, "This proposed rule represents one of the most significant advances in protecting the civil rights of workers with disabilities since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act". We would add that the proposed rules will significantly increase the administrative and reporting burdens on government contractors.

Highlights of the proposed rule include:

  • Goals: Establish, for the first time, a single, national utilization goal for individuals with disabilities. Federal contractors and subcontractors would be required to set a hiring goal of having 7 percent of their employees be workers with disabilities in each job group of the contractors’ workforce.
  • Data Collection: Improve collection of data on employment of people with disabilities by modifying the invitation for workers to self-identify by requiring that contractors invite all applicants to voluntarily self-identify as an “individual with a disability” at the pre-offer stage of the hiring process. Contractors also will be required to invite post-offer voluntary self-identification and to survey all employees annually in order to invite their self-identification in an anonymous manner.
  • Record-Keeping: Require that contractors maintain records on the number of individuals with disabilities applying for positions and the number of individuals with disabilities hired.
  • Accommodation Requests: Require, for the first time, that contractors develop and implement written procedures for processing requests for reasonable accommodation.
  • Outreach: Require that contractors engage in a minimum of three specific types of outreach and recruitment efforts to recruit individuals with disabilities.
  • Job Listings: Require that contractors list job openings with One-Stop Career Centers or other appropriate employment delivery systems.
  • Annual Reviews: Require previously recommended steps contractors must take to review their personnel processes, as well as their physical and mental job qualifications.
Most Government contractors and subcontractors will recognize a large gap between these rules and their current practices.

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