Federal Government: Contractors Must Hire People with Disabilities


After months of concerted effort on the part of disability advocates, on August 27, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a Final Rule that changed the regulations of Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This prohibits federal contractors (and subcontractors) from discriminating against employees with disabilities. Though this rule has been in place for over four decades, the new change requires federal contractors to actively ensure that 7% of their workforce is made up of people with disabilities.

This change will become effective on March 24, 2014.

Federal contractors are a significant part of the nation’s work force. Roughly 10%—15 million—of the nation’s workforce are considered contractors employed by the government. “These new rules are a win-win,” said Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. “They will benefit veterans and people with disabilities, who belong in the economic mainstream of the nation but have faced unfair barriers in the job market.”

Disability advocates point out that government contractors have been promising to hire more and more people with disabilities, but have generally failed to do so in any large scale measure. Barbara Otto, CEO of Health & Disability Advocates in Chicago, noted in her blog, Think Beyond the Label, that the percentage of people with disabilities in the labor force is a disappointing 21.8% (as opposed to 70.1% for people without disabilities.)

The Final Rule will require government contractors to document and update comparisons of applications from people with disabilities and the number of people the contractor actually hires.

Employment specialists should familiarize themselves with this new rule, and be prepared to guide job seekers to take advantage of these new opportunities. The DirectCourse/College of Employment Services curriculum trains employment professionals to support individuals to find jobs, excel in interviews, and keep the work that they find so rewarding.

For more information on the College of Employment Services, please visit: http://directcourseonline.com/employmentservices/

For more information on Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Final Rule, please visit: http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/section503.htm

For more information on what federal contractors must do to comply with this new rule, please visit: http://askearn.org/refdesk/Diversity_Goals/FederalContractor_Req

For Barbara Otto’s response to this new rule at her blog, Think Beyond the Label, please visit:  http://www.thinkbeyondthelabel.com/Blog/post/HDA-Comments-to-Section-503.aspx

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