Work age persons with disabilities have double the unemployment rate as everyone else. Along with minorities, woman and certain ethnic groups, they are a protected against employment discrimination but laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act haven’t had much impact on their jobless rate.
One of the reasons is that unlike women, minorities and ethnic groups, there hasn’t been a way to measure how many disabled individuals work for an employer. This will begin changing soon for employers with federal contracts thanks to a requirement that 7% of their workforce be qualified persons with disabilities.
Why? After much deliberation and stake holder input, on August 27, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced a final rule that prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against individuals with disabilities, and requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these individuals.
Federal contractors are a sizable portion of the U.S. work force. Estimates are that roughly 15 million persons, about 10% of the U.S. labor force, are employed by federal contractors. If the new 7% hiring goal for federal contractors increases employment of persons with disabilities, it could serve as a model and be adopted by other businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies.
“The new OFCCP rule is a great opportunity for all employers, not just federal contractors, to take a new look at job seekers with disabilities. They are a skilled, educated and hard-working but overlooked labor pool,” said Ken Skord, Director of Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital’s AbilityLinks program.
For over 10 years AbilityLinks.org has offered qualified job seekers with disabilities a platform to voluntarily identify having a disability -- Voluntary self-identification of disability is the primary tool federal contractors will use to measure progress toward meeting the 7% disability hiring goal.
“Next month (October) is National Disability Employment Awareness Month so final passage of the OFCCP rule could not have come at a better time, said Mr. Skord. “All persons with disabilities seeking employment are invited to post a resume on AbilityLinks.org. All employers are encouraged to take look at AbilityLinks resumes and post jobs. They can also chat with candidates during our upcoming job fair,” he went on to say. AbilityLinks next job fair is scheduled for October 10 – 12. Learn more.
Highlights of the Final OFCCP Rule
Utilization goal: The Final Rule establishes a nationwide 7% utilization goal for qualified IWDs. Contractors will apply the goal to each of their job groups or to their entire workforce if the contractor has 100 or fewer employees. Contractors must conduct an annual utilization analysis and assessment of problem areas, and establish specific action-oriented programs to address any identified problems.
Data collection: The Final Rule requires that contractors document and update annually several quantitative comparisons for the number of IWDs who apply for jobs and the number of IWDs they hire. Having this data will assist contractors in measuring the effectiveness of their outreach and recruitment efforts. The data must be maintained for three years to be used to spot trends.
Invitation to Self-Identify: The Final Rule requires that contractors invite applicants to self-identify as IWDs at both the pre-offer and post-offer phases of the application process, using language prescribed by OFCCP. The Final Rule also requires that contractors invite their employees to self-identify as IWDs every five years, using the prescribed language. This language will be posted on the OFCCP website (coming soon).
Incorporation of the EO Clause: The Final Rule requires that specific language be used when incorporating the equal opportunity clause into a subcontract by reference. The mandated language, though brief, will alert subcontractors to their responsibilities as Federal contractors.
Records Access: The Final Rule clarifies that contractors must allow OFCCP to review documents related to a compliance check or focused review, either on-site or off-site, at OFCCP’s option. In addition, the Final Rule requires contractors, upon request, to inform OFCCP of all formats in which it maintains its records and provide them to OFCCP in whichever of those formats OFCCP requests.
ADAAA: The Final Rule implements changes necessitated by the passage of the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 by revising the definition of "disability" and certain nondiscrimination provisions of the implementing regulations.
The Final Rule will be published in the Federal Register shortly and is effective 180 days after its publication. However, current contractors with a written affirmative action program (AAP) already in place on the effective date have additional time to come into compliance with the AAP requirements. The compliance structure seeks to provide contractors the opportunity to maintain their current AAP cycle. Read OFCCP press release.
AbilityLinks mission is to link qualified persons with disabilities to inclusive employers. Basic membership is free. Sponsorship opporunities that highlight employer job opportunities start at only $1,500. Read more about AbilityLinks or contact Ken Skord, AbilityLinks program Director at [email protected] or 630/909-7440.