Last month, the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs released new final rules changing the way federal contractors approach hiring of disabled persons and veterans. For the first time, OFCCP will require tailored Affirmative Action Plans (AAPs), with specific benchmarks and strategies for identifying and promoting the hiring of such persons.

After the rules were published, many contractors assumed that this would require them to engage in the type of underutlilization analysis currently in place for women and minority applicants. Since publishing the rules, OFCCP has clarified that its hiring benchmarks are not equivalent to the hiring goals already required for AAPs. The agency stated that the benchmarks provide a measuring tool for employers with regard to the availability of disabled persons and veterans in their hiring markets. OFCCP will not cite contractors simply for failure to achieve these benchmarks. The purpose of the new rules is to spur contractors to evaluate and increase their efforts to engage in outreach and recruitment of underserved populations.

For many contractors the most significant changes with respect to disabled and veteran hiring involve the new self-identification and recordkeeping requirements. The overall efforts to recruit disabled persons and veterans should be thoroughly documented, similar to the current requirements for women and minorities. OFCCP has indicated its intent to phase in enforcement of the new rules, seeking education rather than sanctions, at least while the additional requirements are new.