Mar 27, 2014

The OFCCP Final Rules went into effect on March 24, 2014.  Are you compliant?

The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) recently issued a Final Rule regarding Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 503), and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA).  While the revisions and Final Rules were published in the federal register last year, they became effective on Monday, March 24, 2014.

Section 503 was developed to stop discrimination amongst government contractors and subcontractors against individuals with disabilities (IWDs) when it came to hiring decisions.  It also requires these same contractors to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain IWDs.

A detailed account of the OFCCP Final Rules can be found on the DOL website.  Some of the pertinent changes to Section 503 chosen by the DOL include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. There is now a 7% utilization goal for qualified IWDs.  Contractors will be required to apply the goal to their entire workforce if the contractor has 100 or fewer employees.  (Reminder: 7% is not a quota.)

2. Contractors are now required to invite applicants to self-identify as IWDs at both the pre-offer and post-offer phases of the application process.  It also requires contractors to invite their employees to self-identify as IWDs every five years.  The required self certification language will be available through the OFCCP.

3. The new 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.  The new rule also requires contractors, if requested, to inform OFCCP of all formats in which it maintains records and to give them to OFCCP in whichever of those formats OFCCP requests.

VEVRAA, much like Section 503, was developed to combat discrimination and to promote affirmative action.  Specifically, VEVRAA was designed to prevent federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against Vietnam era veterans, and requires these same contractors to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these veterans.

A detailed account of the OFCCP Final Rules can be found on the DOL website.  Some of the pertinent changes to VEVRAA selected by the DOL include, but are not limited to, the following:

1.  The Final Rule requires contractors to establish annual hiring benchmarks for protected veterans.  Contractors may either: establish a benchmark equal to the national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force, or establish their own benchmarks using certain data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Veterans’ Employment and Training Service/Employment and Training Administration (VETS/ETA).

2.  Contractors must collect data in order to document comparisons for the number of veterans who apply for jobs and the number of veterans they hire.  This will help contractors measure the effectiveness of their efforts.  The data must be maintained for three years to be used to spot trends.

3.  Similar to Section 503, contractors must invite applicants to self-identify as protected veterans at both the pre-offer and post-offer phases of the application process. The rule includes sample invitations.

4.  Similar to Section 503, contractors must allow OFCCP to review documents related to a compliance check or focused review, either on-site or off-site, at OFCCP’s request.  The new rule also requires contractors, if requested, to inform OFCCP of all formats in which it maintains records and to give them to OFCCP in whichever of those formats OFCCP requests.

The changes are designed to bolster employment for protected veterans and IWDs, by requiring federal contractors to reach for specific benchmarks or establish their own benchmarks.  Compliance with the new rules will help provide contractors with a means of gathering data to help them quantify their successes and shortcomings when it comes to recruiting and hiring protected veterans and IWDs.  This data can be used as a measuring stick to determine if current efforts have been successful.  In that same vein, contractors will more than likely be evaluated on their effort to reach certain benchmarks in addition to their compliance with the new rules.  The benchmarks are not to be considered as goals, but as a means of evaluation.  It is also important to remember, contractors with an AAP already in place as of March 24, 2014 may maintain that AAP until the end of their AAP year.

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