The U.S. Department of Labor has signaled that it intends to strengthen regulations regarding the employment of people with disabilities by federal contractors.

The unemployment rate for these individuals is higher than that of people without disabilities, and they are more likely to be out of the labor force entirely, according to the DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

On July 23, the OFCCP published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public input on how it can strengthen the regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The deadline for submitting comments is September 21, 2010.

Currently, federal contractors covered by Section 503 must ensure equal employment opportunity for people with disabilities and act affirmatively to employ and advance them.

"Covered contractors" include those with federal contracts or subcontracts that exceed $10,000. Section 503 requires covered contractors with 50 or more employees and a contract of $50,000 or more to have a written affirmative action program.

OFCCP wants to hear about employment practices that have worked well in the hiring and advancement of people with disabilities, and the extent to which flexibility in work schedules affects recruitment and retention. OFCCP also asks, among other things, whether requiring federal contractors to make technology accessible to people with disabilities has been effective.

If you need assistance in submitting comments to the OFCCP or have any questions about your obligations under Section 503, please feel free to contact any other member of Ballard Spahr's Labor and Employment Group.


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