Q and A About Changes to VEVRAA and Section 503

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Earlier this year, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs announced two new rules to improve employment opportunities for working-age Americans with disabilities and for most of our nation's veterans, including nearly a million who are returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These rules represent the first comprehensive updates in almost 40 years to regulations implementing the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The rules require federal contractors and subcontractors to affirmatively recruit, hire, train and promote qualified veterans and people with disabilities respectively. The Section 503 and VEVRAA rules go into effect on March 24, 2014. Recently, OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu answered three questions about the final rules.  The questions and answers are provided.

Do the new rules include hiring quotas?

No. Quotas are illegal under the existing regulations and the new rules. The 503 rule sets an aspirational 7 percent goal for the employment of people with disabilities in a contractor's workforce. Similarly, the VEVRAA rule requires contractors to either establish their own benchmark for the employment of protected veterans or use a national benchmark based on the percentage of veterans in the workforce (currently 8 percent). These metrics were created to give contractors a yardstick to measure the success of their outreach and recruitment programs. They are not quotas. Contractors will not be fined, penalized or sanctioned for simply failing to achieve a goal or a benchmark. But they do have to try. Contractors must demonstrate tangible steps taken to employ — and advance in employment — qualified workers from these populations.

Will the metrics in these new rules really impact people with disabilities and veterans?

The rules' aspirational metrics are similar to those that have long been used to promote equal opportunities for women and minorities in the workforce. If you've heard me address this subject before, then you know I believe what gets measured gets done. These metrics are management tools that measure progress and inform decision making. If every federal contractor and subcontractor reaches the goal and benchmarks established in our new rules, we estimate that nearly 600,000 workers with disabilities and 200,000 veterans could be added to or identified in the federal contracting workforce in the first year alone! For two populations that are underrepresented in the U.S. workforce, that is an important step forward.

What do contractors need to do before the March 2014 effective date?

Contractors can prepare for the effective date by ensuring their compliance with existing obligations for equal employment opportunity, educating human resources officials and managers tasked with making employment decisions about the new requirements, and making necessary changes to IT and personnel systems and policies. If they have questions, contractors should contact OFCCP for free, expert compliance assistance.

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