ABC, along with nine other groups, May 23 sent a letter to the Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Hilda Solis raising concerns about a recent Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) proposed rulemaking
that would set hiring quotas for federal contractors to employ workers with disabilities.
The December 2011 notice of proposed rulemaking by the OFCCP is intended to update existing requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The proposal attempts to accomplish this by mandating arbitrary quotas (referred to by the agency as “goals”) for hiring disabled workers by all contractors with a government contract or subcontract of $50,000 or more and 50 or more employees. In addition, the proposal requires construction contractors to conduct job group utilization analyses and file written reports for the first time.
“We believe that the approach set forth in the notice of proposed rulemaking imposes unachievable standards and burdensome requirements on federal contractors while undermining the aforementioned goal,” the groups wrote in the letter.
The letter also noted that the groups are committed to the goal of increased employment and effective integration of persons with disabilities into the nation’s workforce – regardless of what is required by the federal government – but raised a number of concerns about the proposal. Those concerns included:
- the failure of the DOL to make an earnest effort to achieve a consensus among major stakeholders and the process by which the proposal was formulated and is being considered;
- the fundamental transformation being proposed in affirmative action from a good faith effort requirement to a rigid approach tied to numerical “goals” for each job group;
- the confusing, intrusive and unworkable requirements that applicants and employees self-identify as having a “disability,” which violates both the letter and the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act;
- the imposition of substantial administrative and paperwork requirements every time an applicant identifies herself/himself as having a disability;
- the unnecessary expansion of “reasonable accommodation” requirements; and
- the significant costs that would be imposed on federal contractors that are far in excess of those estimated by OFCCP, which failed to consider several substantial new requirements imposed by the proposal.
The letter also pointed out that while disability rights groups have been generally supportive of the proposal, some of the comments filed indicated strong differences regarding the numeric “goals” and the self-identification requirements. The groups noted that the lack of unanimity among those groups underscores the serious privacy concerns and the varying views on how best to integrate employees with disabilities into the workforce.
In the letter, the groups noted that the best approach would be to seek a consensus among key stakeholders on how best to achieve its goals, either informally or through the formal process of negotiated rulemaking, if all sides agree that would be productive.
ABC previously conveyed its concerns to a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee
in response to an April hearing, in addition to submitting comments in February that requested an immediate withdrawal of the proposal so the agency can reevaluate its approach.