• New Affirmative Action Rules for Government Contractors
  • October 22, 2013 | Author: Boyd A. Byers
  • Law Firm: Foulston Siefkin LLP - Wichita Office
  • Federal contractors and subcontractors now must adopt quantifiable goals for the employment of individuals with disabilities and protected veterans, according to new regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. The new Rehabilitation Act regulations require contractors to establish a “utilization goal” of having 7 percent of their workforce be comprised of persons with disabilities. Similarly, the new regulations under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) require contractors to establish a “benchmark” for hiring veterans. Contractors may either use the national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force, which currently stands at 8 percent, or develop their own hiring benchmark based on factors listed in the regulations.

    Both sets of new regulations point out that the respective utilization goals and benchmarks are neither rigid quotas, nor are they floors or ceilings on the hiring and employment of individuals with disabilities or protected veterans. A contractor’s failure to meet these metrics, however, will invite government scrutiny into the adequacy of its affirmative efforts to recruit and employ members of these protected classes.

    In addition to these new metrics, the regulations impose additional data collection, self-identification, and other requirements on contractors. For example, contractors now must collect and retain data regarding the total number of job openings and jobs filled; the total number of job applicants and the number of applicants known to have disabilities or to be veterans; and the total number of applicants, persons with disabilities, and veterans hired. And, in addition to the current obligation to invite job applicants to self-identify (both pre- and post-offer), the new regulations also require contractors to invite current employees to self-identify as a person with disabilities every five years. The regulations also update the requirements for outreach and recruitment efforts to reach persons with disabilities and protected veterans.

    If your organization is a federal contractor or subcontractor, you need to carefully review the new regulations and work with legal counsel to determine their impact on your affirmative action plans and practices. The new regulations will go into effect in early March 2014.