The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) today announced a Final Rule that makes historic changes to the regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act with regard to the employment of individuals with disabilities, referred to in the Rule as “IWDs.” As explained in the DOL’s announcement, “Section 503 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against individuals with disabilities, and requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these individuals.”

For the first time, the OFCCP has established a “nationwide 7% utilization goal for qualified IWDs.” Contractors with more than 100 employees will apply this goal to each of their job groups; those with 100 or less employees will apply it to their entire workforce.  Additional provisions require contractors: to keep and analyze certain data with regard to the employment of IWDs; to invite applicants and employees to self-identify as IWDs; to incorporate specific equal employment opportunity language in their subcontracts; and to allow the OFCCP to review documents as part of either a compliance check or focused review.

With regard to providing reasonable accommodations, the Proposed Rule had required contractors to implement written procedures for processing requests for reasonable accommodation. The Final Rule eliminated this requirement  but states that implementing such a procedure is a “best practice” and includes in Appendix B 14 points of “guidance” for contractors to consider in developing this “best practice.” 

The Final Rule is effective 180 days after its publication in the Federal Register, which is expected to occur soon. However, the Final Rule “seeks to provide contractors the opportunity to maintain their current AAP cycle.”