As we shared with you on Tuesday, Vice President Biden announced that the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has released its long-anticipated final regulations under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (“Section 503”).

Section 503 prohibits covered Federal contractors from discriminating in employment against individuals with disabilities who are otherwise qualified and also requires that covered Federal contractors to take affirmative action with respect to such individuals.  Section 503’s nondiscrimination provisions apply to Federal contractors with government contracts or sub contracts in excess of $10,000 for the purchase, sale, or use of personal property or nonpersonal services (including construction).  Federal contractors with a government contract or subcontract of $50,000 or more and 50 or more employees are required to comply with the affirmative action plan (“AAP”) provisions of the final regulations.

The final regulations will become effective 180 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen soon.  This means that Federal contractors must begin preparing for these new changes now.

Under the final regulations, for the first time ever, Federal contractors will be required to collect disability status information from applicants for employment, using specific voluntary self-identification language to be developed by the OFCCP.  Invitations to self-identify as disabled will need to be extended both pre- and post-offer of employment.  Federal contractors also will need to extend the opportunity to voluntarily self-identify as disabled to current employees during the first year a contractor becomes subject to the new regulations and at least every five years thereafter.

The new regulations make significant changes to the Section 503 AAP requirements.  Like the placement and utilization analyses currently required for women and minorities under Executive Order 11246, Federal contractors will be required to conduct annual placement and utilization analyses for individuals with disabilities.  Specifically, Federal contractors will need to annually collect and analyze the following placement data points:

(1) the number of applicants who self-identified as individuals with disabilities;

(2) the total number of job openings and total number of jobs filled;

(3) the total number of applicants for all jobs;

(4) the number of applicants with disabilities hired; and

(5) the total number of applicants hired.

Federal contractors also will be required to conduct a utilization analysis to evaluate the representation of individuals with disabilities within each job group in their workforce against a 7% utilization goal for individuals with disabilities.  Smaller Federal contractors with 100 or fewer employees may apply the 7% goal to their entire workforce.

The final regulations also contain several other important changes, such as requiring that Federal contractors use specific language when incorporating the equal opportunity clause into subcontracts, providing for more extensive recordkeeping requirements, and requiring that covered Federal contractors take steps to ensure that individuals with disabilities are reasonably accommodated in the hiring process, particularly when a covered Federal contractor uses an electronic application system.

In the comings weeks we will provide additional insight and guidance into this and the newly released Veterans regulations through regular blog posts, alerts and webinars so enjoy the holiday weekend and prepare for the fun to really begin . . .