On January 27, 2014, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) released its self-identification form that federal contractors must use to solicit disability status information from applicants and employees. The form was published pursuant to the OFCCP’s new regulations covering a contractor’s affirmative action obligations under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and is now available on the OFCCP’s website.
The regulations, which take effect on March 24, 2014, impose a number of new obligations on federal contractors. Included is the requirement that contractors must invite all applicants to identify as an individual with a disability at both the pre-offer and post-offer phases of the application process. The regulations also require contractors to invite existing employees to provide disability status once every five years, with at least one reminder during the intervening years that employees may update their status at any time. Contractors are required to use the text of the new OFCCP form “without alteration” when inviting applicants and employees to provide disability status. Although electronic versions of the form are permitted, a contractor’s e-form must mirror the agency’s published document, including the specific text, OMB number, and font size and type.
The OFCCP has imposed a similar requirement under the new regulations for the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA), which require that applicants be invited to self-identify as a protected veteran at both the pre-offer and post-offer stage. However, VEVRAA does not require contractors to solicit veteran status from current employees. Furthermore, VEVRAA gives federal contractors some latitude to develop their own forms to solicit veteran status from applicants.
Fortunately, the OFCCP has pushed back the deadline for when federal contractors must start using the new self-identification form, as well as complying with the other affirmative action obligations contained in Section 503 and VEVRAA. For contractors whose current affirmative action plan year begins before March 24, 2014, the new Section 503 and VEVRAA requirements do not kick in until the next plan cycle. For example, a contractor with a calendar year plan (i.e., January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014) will not need to start using the self-identification form until January 1, 2015.
Despite this permitted delay, federal contractors should now take steps to update their application and hiring processes to include the new Section 503 and VEVRAA self-identification requirements. Importantly, contractors are recommended to implement a new form or process that invites both applicants and employees to self-identify as an individual with a disability. Contractors should also update their systems to allow employees to change their disability status at any time. In addition, contractors should revise their existing pre-offer and post-offer self-identification forms to solicit protected veteran status from applicants. Taking all of these steps will help ensure that a federal contractor is prepared to meet its new affirmative action obligations under Section 503 and VEVRAA.