2012 will be a year of significant change in the federal contractor community. Gone will be the notion of “good faith effort” as it applies to affirmative action planning and record keeping. The OFCCP’s new mantra of “What gets measured gets done” will have far reaching implications moving forward. The NPRM recommending changes to VEVRAA caused a flurry of commentary and are still not fully resolved at this point, but industry experts predict these rules will be finalized in spring of 2012 with enforcement beginning in 2013. Now the contractor community is faced with a third NPRM for calendar year 2011…just sliding in under the gun are sweeping proposals to amend and strengthen Section 503 better protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities.

On December 9, 2011 the OFCCP released this statement justifying their purpose in submitting the Section 503 NPRN: “The framework articulating contractors’ Section 503 responsibilities has been in place since the 1970’s. However, both the unemployment rate of working age individuals with disabilities and the percentage of working age individuals with disabilities that are not in the labor force remain significantly higher than for those without disabilities. Strengthening our Section 503 regulations is an important step toward reducing barriers to equal employment opportunity for individuals with disabilities.

Furthermore, the regulations must be revised to incorporate changes to the law made by the ADAAA. The ADAAA amends the definition of “disability” in Section 503 to the same extent that it amends the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and became effective on January 1, 2009.” Few can argue that Section 503 is long overdue for an overhaul and needs to be in line with the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act, however, the question remains: Is OFCCP in step with the public sector and do they fully understand the burdensome nature of the record-keeping requirements they are looking to impose? Most industry experts would answer NO, and it remains to be seen if the contractor community will be fully prepared to accommodate these new regulations. Is your company prepared? Are you asking the right questions?

The U.S. recently celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month, showing a strong shift in public opinion of the challenges our disabled workers face. America’s Job Exchange has been partnering with companies to meet OFCCP job listing requirements since the federal government made the decision to shut down America’s Job Bank. We are following these developments closely and will remain a trusted partner moving forward.

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