The Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, on December 9, 2011, proposed a rule that would require federal contractors to establish a hiring goal of 7 percent of the employer’s workforce for persons with disabilities. The proposal represents a change from over forty years of OFCCP policy requiring contractors to make a “good faith effort” to recruit and hire people with disabilities. The rule would strengthen affirmative action requirements under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires federal contractors and subcontractors to provide equal employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.
OFCCP Director, Patricia Shiu commented that the proposal would “define specific goals, require real accountability, and provide the clearest possible guidance for employers seeking to comply with the law.” The 7 percent goal is not a hiring quota or a restrictive ceiling under the proposed rule; it is merely an EEO objective.
The proposed rule is in line with the Obama Administration’s effort to improve the lives of disabled persons. It also revises key terms (such as “substantially limits,” “disability,” and “major life activity”) under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act to conform with the ADA Amendments Act. The proposed rule also includes a provision that would invite job applicants to self-identify as disabled and also would require federal contractors to survey their current employees annually to provide employees with the opportunity to self-identify as disabled. Voluntary self-identification will allow contractors to compile data to assess the effectiveness of recruitment efforts. Pursuant to the proposed rule, contractors also would be required to perform an annual review assessing their recruitment and hiring efforts. Finally, the rule would require federal contractors to collaborate with state vocational rehabilitation agencies or local organizations to help with recruitment and training of persons with disabilities.