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October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

By OutSolve - Oct 7, 2022 4:28:00 PM - 4 MINS READ

White House acknowledges that Americans with disabilities have a harder time getting jobs, promotions, and fair pay

In 1945, President Truman established the National Disability Employment Awareness month and “issued the first national call for disabled people to access all the opportunities and rewards to work.” It took 23 years later, in 1973, for the Rehabilitation Act to be passed and 45 years later, in 1990, for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to become enacted.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month is a time to celebrate the contributions made by disabled Americans and a time for all organizations to recommit to promoting equal opportunities to all qualified individuals with disabilities.

The Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy has posted a YouTube video in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month as well as a poster, in English and Spanish, titled “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.” These resources, along with others, can be found on their website.

The Biden Administration also recognized the Month and acknowledged that “studies have found that Americans with disabilities are especially productive and motivated workers – but they still have a harder time getting jobs, promotions, and fair pay.”

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act covers contractors and subcontractors with 50+ employees and $50,000 in federal contracts and prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment and requires affirmative action to recruit, pay, advance, and retain these employees at a current utilization rate of 7%. To support these actions and other regulatory obligations, contractors must annually develop written affirmative action programs (AAPs) which may be called upon for review by the Office of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs (OFCCP). These reviews may be part of a traditional compliance evaluation or may be a Section 503 focused review.

In OFCCP’s last Section 503 Focused Reviews Annual Report, the agency announced that at the end of FY 2020 the agency completed 170 or 50% of the scheduled 500 focused reviews for FY 2019. The results of the review were dismal with only eight contractors meeting the goal of 7% utilization in more than 50% of the job groups. The agency did not find any discrimination or reasonable accommodation violation, but many contractors entered into conciliation agreements (CA) for other failure to implement other obligations, such as, conduct outreach and positive recruitment, invite applicants or employees to self-identify, or develop and submit acceptable AAPs and support data.

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OutSolve’s Take 

This month is not a time to reflect on history but to acknowledge and accept responsibility for improving the livelihood of Americans with Disabilities by creating pathways to employment and advancement and ensuring that pay practices are fairly applied. The results from completed compliance reviews from FY2020 and FY2021 found wide spread issues with Section 503 recordkeeping violations. For example, in 2020, 10% of the violations were related to failing to develop a 503 AAP. In FY2021, failure to develop a 503 AAP increased to 14%. Measuring the effectiveness of outreach efforts for 503 also represented a significant portion of the violations in both FY2020 and FY2021. As noted earlier, Focused Reviews were very active in FY2020 and FY2021. Nonetheless, the findings were evident that contractors had room for improvement. October should be a reminder to all employers, especially government contractors, of the importance of having sound practices to support the employment and advancement of individuals with disabilities.

OutSolve is available to respond to questions regarding contractor obligations. Contact us at info@outsolve.com or by calling 888-414-2410.


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