Recently new Labor Department regulations went into effect requiring federal contractors to begin hiring a minimum number of protected veterans and disabled workers. Contractors who don’t at least show they are taking steps to meet benchmarks for hiring these types of workers could face penalties or have their contracts revoked.
The target for disabled workers is 7 percent, and for veterans, the goal would either be based on the national percentage of veterans in the workforce — currently 8 percent — or a company’s own benchmark based on the best available data.The rules are part of an effort to reduce the jobless rate among the disabled and for certain veterans, including those who served in Vietnam, the Gulf War and who recently returned from military action.
The regulations update the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These laws have required federal contractors and subcontractors to more aggressively recruit, hire, train and promote qualified veterans and people with disabilities for the past forty years.
These efforts never included benchmarks in the past. The new benchmarks create a goal to shoot for which should help focus the efforts for better success. Many are delighted that the rules are taking effect.
While the change might sound simple, and businesses want to comply, it will take time, money and personnel to do so.
One of the new requirements is that businesses canvass their work forces every five years to find out if any are veterans or have disabilities and need accommodations. This will help identify workers with less obvious disabilities like depression as to more obvious disabilities like deafness or blindness.
Some contractors have raised concerns about asking job applicants if they are disabled, something that seemed to run afoul of the obligations imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act. But a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said it wasn’t a violation and upheld the rule.
Some businesses may be caught off guard with the new rules because they’re not aware they’re considered federal contractors until the OFCCP brings it to their attention.