It’s a new year and for federal contractors a critical area of focus is preparing new affirmative action plans (AAPs) in accordance to the new regulations for Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 503) and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) that became effective March 24, 2014. At this point practitioners in the field of EEO/Affirmative Action compliance are well versed in the new requirements and are checking off each new requirement on their compliance list. However, what is your organization doing in preparation for the regulations beyond implementing the invitation to self-identify, updating your applicant tracking systems for data collection, and incorporating new EEO clauses? What is your organization doing beyond the compliance checkbox?
In my past role as a compliance officer with the OFCCP, there were many ways for contractors to check the box without effectively creating real change to their employee demographics. Today, we will discuss a few examples of how the check the box activities of the past will no longer meet the OFCCP new requirements.
Checkbox: Outreach and Recruitment Efforts
In the past, contractors could submit evidence that they contacted a diversity partner to help with recruitment efforts by easily submitting letters or e-mails to show they made contact. The new OFCCP is forcing contractors to move beyond the checkbox for outreach and recruitment efforts. With the new regulations, contractors will now have to not only show they attended the career fair or contacted a diverse partner organization about job opportunities but they will have to go the extra mile of creating real partnerships with organizations that can create real results for sourcing talent that will translate into hires for their organization. Organizations will now have to evaluate each outreach effort for its effectiveness. There will be no more “I go to this career fair every year even though we hire zero people from it.” Instead, organizations will have to critically evaluate the effectiveness of their outreach efforts, and if an organization concludes that the totality of its efforts were not effective in identifying and recruiting both job seekers with a disability and qualified protected veterans, it must implement alternative outreach and recruitment methods.
Checkbox: Reasonable Accommodations
Although reasonable accommodation is not a new area of interest for the OFCCP, inquiries into your organizations reasonable accommodation policy and review of how cases were handled will be under increased scrutiny with the new regulations. In the past your organization may not have received many requests for accommodation, however, we anticipate this will change with the increase of employees with a disability who enter your workforce. Having a reasonable accommodation policy will no longer be enough going forward. It is also important that managers and supervisors are well trained on your company’s procedure for handling accommodations request. Additionally, those individuals charged with making decisions regarding accommodations should also be well trained in the proper procedure to handle confidential health information and be equipped with resources, such as, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), to help provide various reasonable accommodation solutions.
Checkbox: Successful OFCCP Review
Everyone wants to successfully pass their OFCCP evaluation and with the new regulations there will be more required in order to accomplish this, including data metric requirements and analysis for the Section 503 AAP. Of course, each organization wants to meet or exceed the new 7% utilization goal for employees with a disability but focusing solely on checking the box for each requirement will not help you achieve this goal alone. In order to meet the goal, we have to change the mindset of the past that focuses on hiring individuals with disabilities to work only in specific entry-level positions. Every worker wants to grow their career. Your disability inclusion strategy should include and focus on creating developed career paths and opportunities of increased responsibility for your employees with a disability. Furthermore, recruitment of talent with a disability should focus on hiring at every level within your organization. The new guidelines set by the government should compel your organization to take your disability inclusion strategy further. Move beyond the compliance checkbox and create change in your company culture so that you are attracting, retaining, and creating an inclusive environment where talent with a disability want to work and can grow their careers.