Monday, December 26, 2011

Disability Hiring Quotas on the Way for Federal Contractors

Along with what has to be one of the more disingenuous press releases I've read recently (and in Chicago, that's saying something), the OFCCP issued proposed rules for federal contractors that effectively mandate that 7% of their workforces will be people with disabilities, or else.

The rules require particular efforts by contractors to recruit and hire disabled workers, along with the associated burdensome record-keeping, similar to what is already in place under the OFCCP's affirmative action requirements for women and minorities.  The proposed rules also include requirements for written disability accommodation procedures and annual job description reviews.

What's particularly interesting is the OFCCP setting a "goal" of having 7% of a workforce classified as "disabled" under federal law.  The OFCCP leadership is saying that this figure is only "aspirational".  But it's very clear that the "goal" is actually a hard floor for companies that want to avoid the expense of a full OFCCP audit.  Apparently frustrated at the fact that the relatively higher unemployment rate for disabled workers has resisted the four decade-long combined efforts of the EEOC, the courts and state law, the OFCCP has now decided that it's not enough to oversee and tune the process of hiring and promotions--it wants the outcome to resemble some federal best guess of what the workforce should look like.

In a particularly ironic statement, the OFCCP Director says that what gets "measured" gets done. But of course, there is no "measure" for disabled employees.  The OFCCP has no idea how many people who qualify as disabled are actually working in federal contractor jobs.  No one does.  Unlike gender or racial differences, many disabilities (especially  mental or psychiatric conditions) do not manifest themselves to employers, and employees rarely go out of their way to identify themselves as disabled.  What is clear is that whatever the official number is now, it is certainly lower than the actual value.  This fact not only means that the OFCCP's program appears to be a solution in search of a problem, it means that it will be impossible to verify compliance, absent some type of highly intrusive inquiry of employee health conditions.  Exactly the type of inquiry that is currently illegal under federal law.

Another reason to avoid contracting with the federal government.

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