ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs published on Dec. 9, 2011, a notice of proposed rule-making for Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
These revisions are expected to take effect early in 2013. The proposed regulations are designed to help increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities with a national target of 7 percent of federal contractor employees. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show stark employment disparities: 79 percent of those with disabilities are outside the labor force, while 30 percent of those without disabilities are out of the labor force. In New Mexico, an estimated 39.1 percent of residents ages 21 to 64 reporting disabilities are in the labor force (U.S. Census, America Community Survey (ACS) PUMS Data 2005-2007).
NAME: Andrew Winnegar
ORGANIZATION: Southwest Americans with Disabilities Center, 6 Nido Lane, Santa Fe
The proposed regulations incorporate changes necessitated by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and require an annual review of personnel processes; outreach and recruitment measures; and mandate job listing requirements. The current regulations for Section 503 prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of disability by federal government contractors and subcontractors. Section 503 also requires that covered federal contractors and subcontractors take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities.
The ADAAA broadens the definition of “disability.” The proposed Section 503 regulations have incorporated the expanded definition of disability under the ADAAA. The regulations mandate previously recommen-ded steps contractors must take to review their personnel processes, and to review physical and mental job qualifications. These annual reviews and results must be documented.
The proposed new rule makes mandatory outreach/recruitment efforts by federal contractors to list all openings with the employment delivery service/One-Stop; enter into at least three linkage agreements; and annually review effectiveness of recruitment efforts. Documentation of these annual reviews must be kept for five years.
There is also an annual anonymous survey of employees to evaluate workplace practices and determine progress toward the national utilization goal of 7 percent for each federal contractor’s job group in workforce.
Finally, the proposed 503 regulations will support federal contractorsÂ have written reasonable accommodation procedures which contain specific elements, including: how to request reasonable accommodation; written confirmation of RA requests; time frame for processing RA requests; when medical documentation may be sought; denials in writing, including the basis for denial; and the responsible official and contact information.
Federal contractors might best prepare for the proposed changes to Section 503 regulations by:
1. Reviewing personnel files, run data computations and retain records on a) the ratio of jobs filled to job openings; b) the ratio of applicants with disabilities to all applicants; c) the total number of applicants hired; and d) the ratio of individuals with disabilities hired to all hires.
2. Developing compliance evaluation procedures by a) contacting the OFCCP to request available formats for reports; b) reading the proposed changes to Section 503 at www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/faqs/Section503_NPRM_faq.htm#Q9, and; c) reading the Federal Contract Compliance Manual (FCCM) at www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/fccm/fccmanul.htm
3. Developing linkage agreements for recruitment of qualified individuals with disabilities with the Department of Workforce Solutions; community rehabilitation programs; independent living centers; the New Mexico Business Leadership Network; the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; and the Commission for the Blind. These organizations may be able to assist with non-skilled or skilled pre-screened individuals.
4. Taking advantage of free training and technical assistance offered by the Southwest ADA Center (www.SouthwestADA.org, 1-800-949-4232) funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the U.S. Department of Education.