On March 24, 2014, the final rule published by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to undertake affirmative action for individuals with disabilities will take effect.

The final rule makes changes to the regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against individuals with disabilities (IWDs). It also requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these individuals. In addition, the final rule makes changes to the nondiscrimination provisions of the regulations to bring them into compliance with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA).

According to the OFCCP’s press release, the final rule “strengthens the affirmative action provisions of the regulations to aid contractors in their efforts to recruit and hire IWDs, and improve job opportunities for individuals with disabilities.” Among other things, the final rule establishes a nationwide 7 percent utilization goal for qualified IWDs. Contractors must apply the goal to each of their job groups or to their entire workforce if the contractor has 100 or fewer employees. Contractors also must conduct an annual utilization analysis and assessment of problem areas, and establish specific action-oriented programs to address any identified problems. Data on hiring and retention of IWDs must be collected and kept for at least three years. Contractors are required to invite applicants to self-identify as IWDs at both the pre-offer and post-offer phases of the application process, using language prescribed by OFCCP, and to do the same with existing employees every five years. Records must be made available for inspection by the OFCCP at the agency’s option. Finally, the definition of “disability” is updated to correspond to the expanded meaning provided in the ADAAA.

Compliance with the final rule applies to all covered contractors upon the March 24 effective date. However, current contractors with a written affirmative action program (AAP) already in place on the effective date have additional time to come into compliance with the AAP requirements.

Click here to view the OFCCP’s final rule on affirmative action for IWDs.