U.S. Labor Department proposes new rule requiring federal contract recipients to meet minimum standards in the hiring of the disabled.
On Thursday, the Labor Department rolled out a plan that would require companies that receive federal contracts to establish hiring goals for the disabled, ultimately fielding a workforce with at least 7% disabled workers.
The proposed new rule comes at a time when disabled applicants are finding it harder than ever to find a job – it’s estimated that an astronomical 8 in 10 Americans with disabilities are completely out of the workforce.
“This is probably the greatest proposal for real substantive change since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act” in 1990, said Patricia Shiu, director of the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. “For nearly 40 years, the rules have said that contractors simply need to make a ‘good faith’ effort to recruit and hire people with disabilities. Clearly, that’s not working.”
It should be noted that the proposed rule is not a quota. Instead, it would require companies to devote more resources to recruiting efforts to hire more disabled workers, improve training programs and update data collection.
But response from the business community has been mixed. While many companies and hiring managers recognize the need to assist disabled individuals in the employment process, the new rule could have a disproportionate effect on small businesses due to increased costs and paperwork requirements.
Still, disabled advocates insist that the new rule represents a big win for both the disabled and employers. “It has been proven again and again that investing in opportunities for people with disabilities are repaid tenfold,” said Lara Schwartz, spokeswoman for the American Association of People With Disabilities. “When more people have the opportunity to earn a living, pay taxes, live independently, the entire nation benefits.”