DOL Seeks Public's Advice on Improving Disability Regulations

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is seeking input from the public on ways to strengthen its regulations requiring federal contractors to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities. In an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in Friday’s Federal Register, the agency invited the public to help revise the regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

"Equal access to employment is a fundamental right of every American," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "It's time to update this regulation to ensure that everyone has access to good jobs, including individuals with disabilities."

The Section 503 regulations have required equal employment opportunity and affirmative action since the 1970s, yet the rate of disabled people who are unemployed or not in the labor force remains significantly higher than those without disabilities. According to recent data from DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, 21.7 percent of people with disabilities were in the labor force in June 2010, compared with 70.5 percent of people with no disability. In addition, the unemployment rate for those with disabilities was 14.4 percent, compared with 9.4 percent unemployment for those without a disability.

"Work is central to every person's financial independence, sense of self and integrity," said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu. "OFCCP is re-examining its affirmative action regulations so that people with disabilities can be assured that federal contractors are proactively seeking them out for employment."

Topics on which comment is requested include:

  • What employment practices have been effective in recruiting, hiring, advancing, and retaining qualified individuals with disabilities.
  • What data are available that could be used to establish hiring goals and conduct utilization analyses of individuals with disabilities.
  • How linkage agreements between federal contractors and organizations that focus on the employment of qualified individuals with disabilities can be strengthened to increase effectiveness.

Comments must be received by OFCCP within 60 days of the ANPRM's publication. To read the ANPRM or submit a comment, go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. The deadline for receiving comments is Sept. 21, 2010.

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