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

Dec 9, 2011
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

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 part of a series called News & Trends.
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