Under revised Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 503), covering individuals with disabilities, employers must invite job applicants and employees to self-identify their disabilities on a standard “Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability” form prescribed by the agency. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the form on January 22, 2014. The initial draft form was revised after OFCCP received numerous comments from contractors.
The applicant or employee may self-identify on the form in one of three ways:
- YES, I HAVE A DISABILITY (or previously had a disability)
- NO, I DON’T HAVE A DISABILITY
- I DON’T WISH TO ANSWER
Employers had criticized the initial draft version for not allowing responders to affirmatively state they are not disabled. The form now also provides a space for the individual’s name.
Significantly, the final form asks responders to disclose not only if they have a disability, but also if they “previous had a disability” (this also was in the initial version). The revised regulations require federal contractors to establish a seven-percent utilization goal for workers with disabilities. While the inclusion of this option may help gather data on disabled employees, it presents other problems. For instance, disabled status often can change over time. This is precisely why the new regulations require employers to resurvey employees every five years and remind them at least once between surveys of their ability to fill out another Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability” form.
The two-page final form is longer than the initial draft version, which was one page. The “Reasonable Accommodation Notice,” now on the second page, asks responders to indicate whether they require an accommodation and gives examples of accommodations, such as specialized equipment.
The requirement for self-identification (of both applicants and employees) falls within Subpart C of OFCCP’s new regulations. OFCCP has made clear that compliance with Subpart C obligations is “phased in” based on the date of the employer’s next regular AAP update following March 24, 2014. While OFCCP has stated that an employer is not in violation of the regulations if it waits until the date of the next regular AAP update to comply with this self-identification requirement, the agency suggests coming into compliance as soon as “practicable” after March 24, 2014.
Therefore, now that the form has been approved, employers should work with their information technology department or those responsible for the on-line application system to put into place a process and plan for integrating the form into the application process.
Additionally, employers should determine when the existing workforce must be surveyed. Under the new regulations, employers are required to survey their existing workforce within the first year of the employer’s next regular affirmative action program (AAP) update following March 24, 2014, the effective date of the regulations.