Last week was busy for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”), the anti-discrimination watchdog that oversees the nation’s federal contractors and subcontractors. On November 8, OFCCP Director Craig Leen announced that the agency will soon begin selecting contractors for “focused reviews” of their compliance with Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 503 bars contractors from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The same day, the agency released a list of 500 contractors selected for an initial round of focused reviews under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (“VEVRAA”), and it issued a new directive highlighting VEVRAA’s protection of military spouses.
A “focused review” is an OFCCP compliance evaluation that is narrowly tailored and focused on specific issues. Here, OFCCP’s focused reviews will evaluate whether contractors are complying with nondiscrimination and affirmative action rules for disabled individuals and protected veterans. According to OFCCP, these reviews will include onsite visits to contractors and interviews with managers responsible for compliance – such as, for example, Human Resources personnel or ADA coordinators. OFCCP will also seek “to evaluate hiring and compensation data,” and for disability reviews, “the handling of accommodation requests.” The agency’s new directive also mandates that, during broader compliance reviews, compliance officers must evaluate contractors’ treatment of spouses of protected veterans.
Federal contractors and subcontractors should review their compliance with the agency’s affirmative action regulations for disabled individuals and protected veterans. The regulations, which OFCCP significantly revised in 2013, set specific “aspirational” benchmarks for the recruitment and hiring of disabled individuals and protected veterans, and impose an array of additional requirements on contractors. For example, under the revised regulations, which went into effect in March 2014, contractors must invite their employees to self-identify as disabled or as veterans at least every five years. It may be time for contractors to re-survey their workforce.