Federal agencies soon will be required to engage in affirmative outreach for individuals with disabilities. The final rule issued by EEOC on December 30, 2016, will require federal agencies to take steps to increase the number of its employees that are individuals with disabilities beginning in January 2018.
This is similar to the affirmative action obligations in the revised Section 503 regulations that went into effect for federal contractors in March 2014.
As a reminder, under the disability regulations contractors are required to aspire to meet an annual 7% utilization goal (per job group) for individuals with disabilities. There is a separate veteran hiring benchmark obligation (currently set at 6.9%). While meeting the goals and benchmark are “aspirational” contractors are required to develop action oriented programs aimed at addressing underutilization and missed benchmarks. In connection with this, contractors are required, on an annual basis, to “assess the effectiveness” of each of their outreach efforts.
In addition to the relevantly recent veteran and individuals with disabilities affirmative action requirements, contractors also have good faith outreach effort obligations for minorities and females in areas of underutilization. Where underutilized, employers must likewise create an action oriented program designed to address the underutilizations – which primarily includes developing meaningful relationships with local recruitment organizations.
While many things may change under a Trump administration, it is likely OFCCP’s emphasis on, and enforcement of, good faith outreach efforts will not. As a result, contractors need to make sure they are taking appropriate actions to build compliant and effective outreach programs.