This post was contributed by Tony D. Dick, Esq., an attorney in McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC's Labor and Employment Practice Group in Columbus, Ohio.
As expected, new U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has wasted little time implementing a number of agenda items in the few short weeks since his Senate confirmation. Most recently, Secretary Perez announced two new rules that amend longstanding regulations under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, which deal with federal contractors’ and subcontractor’s affirmative action and nondiscrimination obligations toward protected veterans and individuals with disabilities. Among other things, these new rules establish specific hiring metrics, data collection practices, and record keeping requirements that federal contractors must implement for veterans and disabled individuals seeking employment.
Below are some highlights of the final rules:
- Utilization Goal for Individuals with Disabilities – The final rule under the Rehabilitation Act establishes, with some exceptions, a 7% hiring goal for qualified individuals with disabilities. While the goal is aspirational, contractors will be required to conduct an annual utilization analysis of individuals with disabilities within the organization, assess problem areas, and establish specific programs to address any identified problems.
- Hiring Benchmarks for Protected Veterans – Under the final rule amending VEVRAA, federal contractors must establish annual hiring benchmarks for protected veterans utilizing one of two methods. Contractors can either choose to set a benchmark that mirrors the national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force or they may establish their own benchmarks using certain data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Veterans’ Employment and Training Service/Employment and Training Administration.
- Job Listings Requirements for Protected Veterans – The final rule under VEVRAA also clarifies that when listing job openings, contractors must provide the information in a manner and format permitted by the appropriate state or local job services, so that it can be easily disseminated to veterans seeking jobs.
- Data Collection – Under both rules, contractors must now document and annually update several quantitative comparisons concerning the number of veterans and individuals with disabilities who apply for jobs and the number of veterans and individuals with disabilities who are actually hired. Such data must be maintained for three years.
- Invitation to Self-Identify – Both rules also require contractors to invite applicants to self-identify as a veteran and/or an individual with a disability at both the pre-offer and post-offer phases of the application process.
- Records Access – The new rules also clarify that contractors must permit officials from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to review documents to establish compliance with the rules.
The regulations are expected to be published in the Federal Register early next month and will go into effect 180 days later. Contractors with affirmative action plans already in place on the effective date of the new rules may keep those plans until the end of their plan year. Thus, federal contractors and subcontractors that submit affirmative action plans at the beginning of each calendar year will not be required to submit affirmative action plan documents based on these new rules until the beginning of 2015. However, contractors must begin following the data collection, record keeping, and other requirements of the new rules immediately after the rules take effect. Accordingly, if you are a federal contractor or subcontractor, now is the time to begin to revising your policies, procedures and relevant forms to conform with the Department of Labor’s new rules so that you are not caught flat-footed when the rules go into effect.