Today’s post is by Douglas Amen, an associate at Lamson Dugan and Murray, LLP.
As discussed earlier, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) issued the Final Rules for the Vietnam Era Veteran’s Readjustment Assistance Act (“VEVRAA”) and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. These new rules will require employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain veterans and individuals with disabilities (“IWDs”). In order to track contractors’ progress, VEVRAA will include “benchmarks” while Section 503 will include “utilization goals” for employers to follow.
Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The final rules establish a nationwide 7% utilization goal for qualified IWDs. If a contractor has 100 employees or less, this 7% goal will apply to the entire workforce. Any employer with more than 100 employees will have to apply this utilization goal to each of their job groups. In order to monitor their progress, contractors must conduct an annual analysis of their utilization goal and assess their problem areas. If contractors identify any problem areas, they will be required to establish “action-oriented” programs that address these problem areas.
Under VEVRAA, federal contractors must establish annual hiring benchmarks for the hiring of “protected veterans”. Federal contractors will have two options to implement these benchmarks. The first is to peg their benchmark to the national percentage of veterans in the civilian workforce, which is currently at 8 percent. This data will be supplied annually by the OFCCP. The second option is to establish their own benchmarks based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Veteran’s Employment and Training Service/Employment and Training Administration, which will also be available from the OFCCP. Unlike Section 503, either benchmarks will apply to a contractor’s entire workforce, regardless of size.
These rules will become effective March 24, 2014, so contractors should start the process now to become compliance ready. After that, if a contractor fails to establish a benchmark/utilization goal or engage in significant efforts toward these goals, they may be found in violation of these rules.