Department of Labor Proposes Rule to Update Regulations Implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs issued a proposal to revise the regulations applicable to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The goal of this proposal is to improve collection of data on employment of people with disabilities by modifying the invitation for workers to self-identify by requiring that contractors invite all applicants to voluntarily self-identify as an “individual with a disability” at the pre-offer stage of the hiring process. Contractors will also be required to invite post-offer voluntary self-identification, and to survey all employees annually in order to invite their self-identification in an anonymous manner. Collection of this enhanced data will allow the contractor and OFCCP to better identify and monitor employment practices with respect to individuals with disabilities. The NPRM provides that OFCCP will prescribe the language that contractors will be required to use when inviting self-identification and publish it on the OFCCP website. The NPRM also seeks public comment on proposed text for an invitation to self-identify.Off

The regulations would require that contractors maintain records on the number of individuals with disabilities applying for positions, and the number of individuals with disabilities hired. This would provide contractors and OFCCP with important information that does not currently exist, and would aid contractors in evaluating and tailoring their recruitment and outreach efforts.

There would be a requirement, for the first time, that contractors develop and implement written procedures for processing requests for reasonable accommodation. Such procedures would assist contractors in consistently satisfying their reasonable accommodation obligations. These new procedures would also ensure that job applicants and employees receive clear instructions on how to request reasonable accommodation, the maximum amount of time for processing a request and, if the request is denied, the reason for the denial.

The regulations would also require that contractors engage in a minimum of three specific types of outreach and recruitment efforts; review, on an annual basis, the effectiveness of these efforts in identifying and recruiting individuals with disabilities; and document this review.

Contractors would be required to list job openings with one-stop career centers or other appropriate employment delivery systems, as is currently required for protected veterans under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974.

The regulations would require previously recommended steps contractors must take to review their personnel processes, as well as physical and mental job qualifications. Contractors would be required to conduct both of these self-reviews “annually,” rather than “periodically,” and to document specific review actions and their results.

Contractors would incorporate updates made necessary by the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 and subsequent amendments to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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