On December 9, 2011, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) published a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding the disability discrimination regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.  The OFCCP is the branch of the U.S. Department of Labor which enforces affirmative action obligations for government contractors.
Seeking to strengthen employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, the OFCCP is proposing several significant changes to the existing regulations.  If these proposed regulations are adopted, government contractors will have to:

  • Review their personnel procedures at least annually to make sure that their Section 503 obligations are being met.   
  • Use particular language developed by the OFCCP to invite applicants and employees to voluntarily self-identify whether or not they have a disability.
  • Include a rather lengthy Equal Employment Opportunity clause in every federal contract and subcontract.
  • Comply with particular job listing requirements and engage in specific outreach and recruitment efforts.
  • Issue written reasonable accommodation procedures.
  • Engage in increased data collection.
  • Modify compliance evaluation procedures.
  • Establish a national utilization goal of 7% individuals with disabilities for each job group.
  • Develop action steps for addressing any underutilization.
  • Implement specific training programs.
  • Maintain relevant records for five years.

These new obligations are anticipated to require covered contractors and subcontractors to spend significant additional time and resources on compliance efforts.  Whether these steps will result in increased opportunities for disabled workers is uncertain.
Public comments on the proposed revisions to the Section 503 regulations are being accepted until February 7, 2012.