On September 13, the Department of Labor hosted a Twitter chat to discuss the two new rules that affect the regulations of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA), and Section 503 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The main objective of these new regulations is to enhance the hiring opportunities of veterans and candidates with disabilities. Patricia Shiu, Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Policy (OFCCP), Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, and Ruth Samardick, Director of National Programs for the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, answered questions and shared valuable resources. Numerous guests also joined including Jill Houghton, Executive Director of the U.S. Business Leadership Network, Mark Perrielo, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, and Davy Leghorn, Assistant Director of the American Legion’s Economic Division.
Tom Perez, Labor Secretary, commenced the chat by outlining the philosophy behind these new VEVRAA and Section 503 rules. He said that these rules “strengthened civil rights laws to create more economic opportunity for veterans and people with disabilities.” There were many significant questions that were asked and answered. An important question was how federal contractors would best be educated about the new 503 Rule and 7% hiring goal. The 7% hiring goal refers to the 7% utilization goal that all federal contractors need to reach where 7% of their employees are people with disabilities. The answer was to watch the Department of Labor website for important info regarding this provision andfor guidelines and resources that would be available soon to assist employers with compliance. Many other key issues were touched upon and resources provided. There are great resources at the Job Accommodation Network on how to educate local employers on the benefits of hiring individuals with autism and other intellectual disabilities. A question raised was that how would the Individuals with Disabilities (IWD) hiring provision be implemented if no question about disability is asked during hiring process. The answer was that there has to be an invitation to self identify as a candidate with disability, as perthe new rules of Sec 503 and permitted by the ADA. If the answer is yes then contractors just need to keep records and include with the company’s AAP. Businesses can attain great guidance about disability inclusion practices from
It was mentioned that the need for local counties to educate families about these new laws would be critical. There was guidance sought to achieve this end to which the OFCCP promised more webinars to address these kinds of needs and compliance assistance for the next 6 months. A participant pointed out that for this kind of hiring to be successful, veterans needed to be given skills training. The U.S. DOL responded that this was crucial, especially to equate military skills to civilian equivalencies. Resources on the topic are available at mynextmove.org/vets/. In order for contractors to start doing something TODAY to get ready for the new rules they could join The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), and The US Business Leadership Network (USBLN), “a national non-profit that helps businesses drive performance by leveraging disability inclusion in the workplace”, to understand transparent, national disability inclusion benchmarks as well as look out for assistance from the DOL for the next 6 months. Employers could also connect with Operation PAVE, Paralyzed Veterans of America’s vocational rehabilitation program, to access talented vets and get help with new regulations. The7% utilization goal needs to be met and if not, there will be no penalties but possibly signal that that outreach may need to be tweaked or there are workplace barriers. However, there will be penalties for non-compliance.
Another important question raised was that whether the OFCCP would provide language, listing disabilities, so that it is easy for candidates to self-ID. The DOL said that prescribed language will be posted on the website in the coming weeks. http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/section503.htm
The chat ended with some brainstorming and points to ponder. It was mentioned that CEOs of such companies enjoying federal contracts have a huge responsibility to make these changes happen. American Job Centers are key partners to leverage these changes to increase the employment outcomes for candidates with disabilities. The regulations create incentive for change. Measurable benchmarks create accountability. The effective date of VEVRAA and Section 503 will be the same to help contractors with tech updates.
USBLN tweeted: “Diversity is a reality and inclusion is a choice. Including people with disabilities is good business.” To make the importance of hiring candidates with disability clear, Martinez said “National Disability Employment Awareness: make it every day and month of the year.”
Returning veterans with great leadership and other fine skills need to be employed. As Tom Perez put it “We all must work together to ensure qualified workers have meaningful opportunities to find, secure and keep good jobs.”