The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, or OFCCP, has issued several changes to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 503, for those that are not familiar, 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. Several updates to Section 503 were passed in September of 2013, but the changes didn’t actually go into affect until March of 2014. The new rules strengthen the affirmative action provisions of the regulations to aid contractors in their efforts to recruit and hire people with the aforementioned disabilities. The new rule also makes changes to the nondiscrimination provisions of the regulations to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008.
There were several changes made to Section 503, but some of the most important highlights are as follows:
· Utilization Goal: The new regulations establish a nationwide 7% utilization goal for qualified people disabilities. Contractors 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 the areas that present problems, as well as establish specific action-oriented programs to address any identifiable problems within the position.
· Data Collection: The new regulations that contractors document and update annually several quantitative comparisons for the number IWDs who apply for jobs and the number of IWDs the business hires. Having this data assists contractors in being able to measure the effectiveness of the outreach and recruitment efforts their business has. The data must be retained for three years to be utilized to spot trends in applications and hiring.
· Invitation to Self-Identify: These new regulations require that contractors invite applicants to self-identify as an IWD at both the pre-offer and post-offer phases in the application process, using language prescribed by OFCCP. The new regulations also require that contractors invite their employees to self-identify as IWDs every five years, using the prescribed language.
· Incorporation of the EO Clause: The new regulations require 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 new regulations clarify that contractors must allow OFCCP to review documents related to compliance check or focused review, either on-site or off-site, at OFCCP’s option. In addition, the new regulations require 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 new regulations implements changes necessitated by the passage of the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 by revising the definition of “disability” and certain nondiscrimination provisions.
The points mentioned above are only highlights of the revisions made to Section 503. The changes are made to allow a more assimilated workplace regardless of the presence of disabilities. Giving the opportunity to work to all people is a basic human right; a disability shouldn’t be the reason that a well-qualified person isn’t hired. These revisions are forcing society to move forward to a more integrated workplace.