Will the new Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) ruling help disabled people or just end up hurting federal contractors? The Department of Labor’s recent proposed ruling has been approved and is set to become effective on February 25, 2014, with some extensions allowed.
The OFCCP ruling ensures that individuals with disabilities should compose at least 7 percent of the workforce at every job group at federal contractors and their subcontractors. In addition to this employment obligation, the rule also requires contractors to take specific steps in recruitment, training and record-keeping for disabled workers.
Opponents feel that this rule will be oppressive and force federal contractors to spend approximately $6 billion a year to produce proof of compliance. Others representing major employers are concerned that the rule will require federal contractors to invade the privacy of applicants and employees with questions about their physical and mental conditions.
The unemployment rate for disabled people hovers just over 14 percent, while the latest overall national unemployment numbers are at 7.3 percent. Clearly, this large disparity needs to be addressed. Hopefully organizations, both those who have federal compliance obligations as well as those that don’t, will do the right thing and start to make positive changes to close this gap. According to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, “This new rule will be a driving force to create new opportunities for employment of individuals with disabilities by harnessing the power of federal contractors and subcontractors, who employ more than 20 percent of the American labor force.”