Tune Up Made to Federal Contract Compliance

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has revised its rules to strengthen affirmative action programs for people with disabilities and veterans applying for federal contractor jobs.
     The OFCCP enforces laws protecting federal contractors against discrimination, and directs contractors to engage in affirmative action and equal employment opportunities.
     Rule revisions issued Tuesday seek to strengthen affirmative action laws as they relate to the hiring of applicants with disabilities.
     “Employment discrimination and underutilization of qualified workers, such as individuals with disabilities and veterans, contribute to broader societal problems such as income inequality and poverty,” the agency wrote.
     “The median household income for ‘householders’ with a disability, aged 18 to 64, was $25,420 compared with a median income of $59,411 for households with a householder who did not report a disability,” according to the action.
     Among other things, the rule requires data collection on applicants and employees with disabilities. It aims to give contractors tools to evaluate their compliance with affirmative action and equal opportunity laws.
     For the first time, the rule would create a goal of a seven percent workforce for people with disabilities, according to the action. The percent is not a quota, but a “management tool” to help decision-making and accountability for federal contractors, the OFCCP wrote.
     The rule also requires contractors to invite people applying for contract jobs to identify as having a disability “at the pre-offer stage of the hiring process,” as a way to give contractors useful information about their outreach and recruitment. “There are tangible and intangible benefits from investing in the recruitment and hiring of individuals with disabilities,” the agency wrote. “
     Among them are employer tax credits, access to a broader talent pool, an expanded pool of job applicants, access to new markets by developing a workforce that mirrors the general customer base, lower turnover based on increased employee loyalty, and lower training costs resulting from lower staff turnover,” according to the action.
     The OFCCP also has revised regulations on the 1974 Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, which was amended by the 2002 Jobs for Veterans Act. Through the revisions, the agency seeks to strengthen recruitment and hiring of veterans by requiring data collection and hiring benchmarks for affirmative action.
     “Although progress has been made in the employment of veterans, the number of unemployed veterans still remains too high, and substantial disparities in unemployment and pay rates continue to persist, especially for some categories of veterans,” the agency wrote.
     Government statistics show that the unemployment rate for veterans who served after September 2001 is two percent higher than for non-veterans.
     The revisions are “intended to provide contractors with the tools needed to evaluate their own compliance and proactively identify and correct any deficiencies in their employment practices,” according to the action.
     “These tools include, for example, removing barriers related to job postings so both contractors can effectively post or advertise their jobs, and jobseekers can take full advantage of these job opportunities.
     It also includes data collection to support meaningful self-assessments of employment practices and the ability for contractors to adjust their outreach and recruitment efforts for greater effectiveness and efficiency when needed,” the agency wrote.
     The rules go into effect March 24, 2014.

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