Last month, The Department of Labor (DOL) released final updates to regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 503 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against individuals with disabilities, and requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these individuals.
For the first time in 40 years, federal contractors and subcontractors will be required to meet the goal of ensuring that 7 percent of each job group in their workforce be qualified individuals with disabilities. The rule sets out required activities that contractors and subcontractors will need to take in recruitment, training, record keeping, and policy dissemination. The new rules are similar to those that have long been required to protect women and minorities against discrimination in the workplace.
The unemployment rate among people with disabilities is unacceptably high. The Arc has long urged DOL to hold federal contractors and subcontractors to the same non-discrimination standards for hiring people with disabilities as it does concerning women and minorities. Federal contractors employ about 25% of the workforce in the US and employ millions of workers. The Arc is pleased to see these rules which open new doors to employment for people with disabilities. DOL is hosting a webinar about the new rules on September 18.
The Section 503 rules can be viewed on the Department of Labor website.