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Under New Proposed Rule, Contractors Would Need to Boost Hiring of People With Disabilities

by Dec 9, 2011, 2:11 am ET

For those suffering from insomnia now around 2 a.m. Eastern, we’ve dug through a U.S. government website to find a 172-page document that may help you sleep — or, if you’re a federal contractor, could possibly keep you up at night.

The draft of the proposed rules, to be printed later today (Friday the 9th), would create a big new set of rules related to hiring people with disabilities.

Federal contractors and subcontractors would have to try to have 7 percent of their workforces be people with disabilities, among other requirements. It’s not a hard mandate, but a goal to work toward for various job groups (in other words, as the proposal spells out, a company shouldn’t mask low levels of disabled employment in certain job functions by building up a high number in low-paid jobs). Contractors would have to take certain recruiting, training, and other steps to work toward the goal, “similar to those that have long been required to promote workplace equality for women and minorities,” says the U.S. Labor Department.

Page 26 describes a new requirement about surveying your employees, “providing an opportunity for each employee who is, or subsequently becomes, an individual with a disability to voluntarily self-identify as such in an anonymous manner, thereby allowing those who have subsequently become disabled or who did not wish to self-identify during the hiring process to be counted.”

There’s much more. On page 36 it says the contractor should “promptly list all of its employment opportunities, with limited exceptions, with the nearest Employment One-Stop Career Center. It also requires the contractor to engage in a minimum of three additional outreach and recruitment efforts …”

And around pages 38 and 39, it says contractors would need to “review the outreach and recruitment efforts it has undertaken over the previous 12 months and evaluate their effectiveness in identifying and recruiting qualified individuals with disabilities, and document its review.”

You’d have to look at how many employee referrals and applicants were people with disabilities, examine if your efforts are not working, investigate why, and implement changes.

There are provisions about recruitment training; for example, related to making sure you’re training people in being sensitive to applicants and recruits.

Two Months for Your Two Cents 

There’s much more in the proposed rules, which we’re sure many labor and management lobbyists will be poring over when they awaken. The process for commenting on the regulations, before a final rule is made, is spelled out briefly on page 2. Comments must be received by February 7.

Sadly, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 13 percent — a problem I have been interested in since being involved in lobbying in favor of a disability-related tax credit called the WOTC, championed by New York Democrat Charlie Rangel, in the 1990s.

In the meantime, for more on the topic of disabilities in the workplace, the Job Accommodation Network has long been a great source of information.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Keith Halperin

    Hmmm. If mental disabilities are included, I would think that most companies have far more than that just counting their hiring managers…

    ;)

    Keith

  • Keith Halperin

    Question:

    If an employee has already been hired, but not classified
    at the time of hire, would subsequent evaluation and formal classification permit this employee to be considered as part of this for purposes of compliance, i.e. if they don’t get classified as disabled until after they’re hired, does it still count?

    Thanks,

    Keith keithsrj@sbcglobal.net

  • Todd Raphael

    Hi – not legal advice, just trying to help – it depends what you mean by “does it still count.” The regulations aren’t as much about hard numbers as they are about efforts — are you taking this step or that step. But if you mean is it part of the 7%, yes, I think so (again not legal advice). The proposal as I read it (p. 29) suggests you survey employees both pre-offer and later as to their disability status. I’d think if they say after they are hired that they are disabled, they are included in the 7%.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thank you very much, Todd. I appreciate it.

    Keith

  • Bill Gallop

    As a former business owner and someone with a physical handicap I welcome this new regulation. I live in the DC area and see opportunities everyday where this could be used.

    The real problem will be getting this through congress. Without teeth it won’t / can’t be fairly implemented. The current congress seems unwilling or unable to pass any legislation right now.

    I welcome the attempt but fear it will die on the vine of inaction and political constipation.

    Bill Gallop
    DoD / Intel Recruiter

  • Todd Raphael

    At the bottom of the article I mentioned the Feb. 7 comment deadline. It has been extended two weeks to Feb. 21. See http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/ofccp/OFCCP20120248.htm

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Todd. After 2/21, what happens next?

    Cheers,
    keith

  • Todd Raphael

    The government takes the comments, reads them, and decides if it wants to modify the proposal, and how it wants to modify it. Then, it comes out with a final rule and an explanation of how it took the comments into consideration in crafting that final rule. I don’t know when the final rule will be, whether mid 2012, late 2012, early 2013, or what.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Todd. So if I understand correctly, except for the 2/21 comments deadline, the final ruling may be several months to years away….

    Cheers,
    keith

  • Todd Raphael

    I doubt it’d be several years. Though in the past — like with the ergonomics rules, and other OSHA rules — changes in political makeup have played a role and could here — say a very Republican Congress takes over or something, and they block funds from being spent to implement the rule.

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