It’s no secret that unemployment for certain veterans and individuals with disabilities is disproportionately high. In an effort to help alleviate this issue, the OFCCPhas announced revisions to the VEVRAA and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act that will become effective on March 24, 2014.
Two new rules will be implemented that are aimed at improving employment opportunities for protected veterans and qualified workers with disabilities where the employer is a federal contractor or subcontractor with an Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) in place. If a contractor’s AAP is already in place on March 24, 2014, they may wait until the end of their AAP year to comply with the new rules.
The new VEVRAA rules require that contractors establish a hiring benchmark for protected veterans each year to be used as a tool to help contractors measure how effective they are in recruiting and hiring protected veterans. These benchmarks can be based on either a national percentage of veterans in the workforce, or based on certain data elements specific to their type of business.
The new Section 503 rule establishes a nationwide 7% utilization goal for qualified individuals with disabilities. Contractors will apply the goal to each of their job groups, or their entire workforce if they employee less than 100 employees. Contractors are to analyze utilization annually and identify any problem areas, thereby establishing a plan of action to remedy such problem areas.
These new rules will also make it easier for those companies that do business with the federal government by giving them access to a greater pool of qualified workers. Veterans who have given so much to serve the United States should be able to find employment, yet unemployment rates are higher among veterans than non-veterans. Likewise, unemployment rates are much higher among individuals with disabilities in comparable age brackets than those without disabilities, regardless of the technological advances that have made job performance achievable among individuals with disabilities.
Being a federal contractor is a privilege. That privilege comes with the responsibility to follow the letter of the law and provide equal employment opportunity for all workers. These new rules will provide tools to help contractors measure the progress being made toward this goal.