The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) plans to recognize contractors that prioritize disability inclusion.
Following its recent Directive to develop a Contractor Recognition Program, the OFCCP has proposed to implement an Excellence in Disability Inclusion Award. This award would recognize contractors "that ensure equal employment opportunity, foster employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and have achieved a level of excellence in their compliance with Section 503" of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Although the nomination process is lengthy, the potential payoff is enticing – a two-year moratorium on compliance evaluations for the winning establishment. (The award would be bestowed on a contractor establishment, not on the contractor as a whole.)
The criteria for eligibility would include the following:
- Development and implementation of current Affirmative Action Plans.
- No unresolved violations of the laws enforced by the OFCCP. "Unresolved violations" includes violations that are in litigation, in an open conciliation agreement, and in a pending compliance review.
- No adverse decisions by a court, Administrative Review Board, or Administrative Law Judge related to violations of Section 503, Executive Order 11246, the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act, or the Americans with Disabilities Act within the last three years and not currently under monitoring related to the same.
To apply for the award, eligible contractors would be required to submit a nomination package.
In addition to the required investment of time in the award application, contractors that receive the award would be signing on to future commitments with the agency. For example, a winning contractor would have to participate in a public service announcement on the importance of compliance with the OFCCP’s regulations and "policy strategies and effective practices for increasing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities."
The contractor would also be required to work with the OFCCP and the Office of Disability Employment Policy "in a peer-to-peer mentoring program to support contractors as they seek to comply with OFCCP regulations" and "develop and/or provide input into the development of technical assistance, outreach, and model practices for use by other employers, including federal contractors."
Those contractor establishments that can demonstrate effective use of apprenticeship programs in their initiatives would be "favorably considered" and would receive additional points in the review process.
As proposed, the OFCCP would select two small contractors (total workforce of 100 or fewer employees) and two large contractors (total workforce of more than 100 employees) for the award.
"Honorable mention" positions would also be designated in both categories. The "honorable mention" nominees would not be entitled to the compliance evaluation moratorium, but would still be required to participate in the post-award program activities.
The submission package required under the proposed nomination process would require substantial time and effort. Those contractors that have invested in and prioritized disability inclusion may find the recognition and relief from compliance evaluations a sufficient return. However, many contractors may find that the potential benefits are not worth the effort.
Comments about the proposal are due by December 4, 2018.