- What is a Section 503 focused review?
- Why is OFCCP conducting Section 503 focused reviews?
- Where can I learn more about the Section 503 Focused Review?
- The Section 503 focused review scheduling letter requests our Executive Order 11246 affirmative action program (AAP) as well. Will OFCCP review the Executive Order AAP during a 503 focused review?
- If a contractor is in the middle of a Section 503 focused review, can it also be scheduled for other types of reviews?
- Upon being scheduled for a Section 503 focused review who do I need to talk to or email for compliance assistance, outreach, and education?
- How can I contact OFCCP if I have questions about the Section 503 Focused Review Compliance Evaluation?
- Does the Section 503 Focused Review Scheduling Letter request data and information required in the Section 503 regulations?
- Will OFCCP analyze personnel activity data during a Section 503 focused review?
- Will focused reviews take place at all contractor facilities?
- What will OFCCP examine and assess during a Section 503 focused review?
- Has OFCCP identified Section 503 best practices to assist organizations and employers with recruitment, hiring, and retention of individuals with disabilities?
- Is it permissible for federal contractors to develop and implement diversity and inclusion programs for applicants and employees with disabilities?
- OFCCP recently began issuing Section 503 focused review scheduling letters. When should we expect the compliance evaluation to take place?
- Are federal contractors permitted to proactively recruit and hire individuals with disabilities?
- Can contractors provide applicants and employees with additional information about the purpose of the form and the potential benefits of self-identification?
- Are contractors permitted to alter OFCCP's self-identification form?
What is a Section 503 focused review?
On August 10, 2018, OFCCP issued Directive 2018-04, Focused Reviews of Contractor Compliance with Executive Order 11246, Section 503, and VEVRAA, requiring future scheduling lists to include focused reviews.
A focused review is one that is restricted to one or more components of the contractor’s organization or one or more aspects of the contractor’s employment practices. Section 503 focused reviews will include a comprehensive review of the contractor policies and procedures as they relate solely to Section 503. The reviews will also include an on-site investigation and interviews with managers responsible for equal employment opportunity and Section 503 compliance (such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator) as well as employees affected by those policies. OFCCP would also seek to evaluate the handling of accommodation requests, to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not being discriminated against in employment.
Why is OFCCP conducting Section 503 focused reviews?
OFCCP and the U.S. Department of Labor are committed to protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities in the workplace and eliminating barriers to equal employment opportunities for these individuals. The labor force participation rate for individuals with disabilities is comparatively low (about 20%) and the unemployment rate is comparatively high (about 6%). As a demonstration of our commitment, OFCCP will conduct focused reviews under Section 503 to ensure that federal contractors comply with equal employment opportunity obligations and consider additional best practices to increase the employment of qualified individuals with disabilities. Ensuring these steps are taken can help to reduce the rate of unemployment among individuals with disabilities, which is nearly two times the rate of employment for non-disabled individuals, and shift workplace culture to promote a culture of inclusiveness.
Where can I learn more about the Section 503 Focused Review?
OFCCP created a landing page that specifically discusses Section 503 focused reviews. These materials can be accessed at www.dol.gov/agencies/ofccp/section-503/focused-reviews
The Section 503 focused review scheduling letter requests our Executive Order 11246 affirmative action program (AAP) as well. Will OFCCP review the Executive Order AAP during a 503 focused review?
No. OFCCP will not conduct a review of the Executive Order affirmative action program (AAP) during Section 503 focused reviews. While OFCCP will request the Executive Order AAP as part of Section 503 focused reviews, the Executive Order AAP will only be used to help the OFCCP compliance officer get a clearer picture of the contractor’s organizational structure, confirm Section 503 job groups, and understand generally how the Section 503 compliance strategies fit with the contractor’s other affirmative efforts. OFCCP will not analyze data contained in the Executive Order AAP to look for discrimination based on sex or race and ethnicity. If elements of the Executive Order AAP document are missing or insufficient on their face, OFCCP will note those issues and take appropriate actions, beginning with technical assistance, to bring the contractor into compliance. For example, if the Executive Order AAP job group analysis does not include a list of the job titles that comprise each job group, OFCCP will provide technical assistance and require the contractor to submit the missing information, which will then be noted in the closure notice.
If a contractor is in the middle of a Section 503 focused review, can it also be scheduled for other types of reviews?
No. While a focused review is pending at an establishment, the establishment will be exempt from the scheduling of additional compliance evaluations. However, if OFCCP receives a complaint during a focused review alleging violations under any of the three laws OFCCP administers, OFCCP will investigate the complaint accordingly.
Upon being scheduled for a Section 503 focused review who do I need to talk to or email for compliance assistance, outreach, and education?
Contractors are encouraged to take advantage of OFCCP’s technical assistance materials which can be found on OFCCP’s website under the Contractor Assistance section. The contractor can also contact the OFCCP regional and/or district office that sent the scheduling letter for any other questions about the compliance evaluation process or if they require individualized compliance assistance. OFCCP’s district office staff will contact the contractor to offer technical assistance before or immediately after sending the scheduling letter.
How can I contact OFCCP if I have questions about the Section 503 Focused Review Compliance Evaluation?
Contractors can contact the OFCCP Help Line at 1-800-397-6251 (TTY 1-877-889-5627) to get additional information about Section 503 focused reviews.
Does the Section 503 Focused Review Scheduling Letter request data and information required in the Section 503 regulations?
Yes. The Section 503 Focused Review Scheduling Letter and Itemized Listing specify the documents and data related to Section 503 that a contractor must provide to OFCCP when selected for a 503 focused review. These items include the contractor’s Section 503 AAP and the documentation and information required by Subpart C of the regulations, including but not limited to the contractor’s utilization analysis of the representation of individuals with disabilities, evaluation of outreach and recruitment efforts, and the data described in 41 CFR 60-741.44(k).
Will OFCCP analyze personnel activity data during a Section 503 focused review?
OFCCP will not require the submission of personnel activity data other than the data described in 41 CFR 60-741.44(k) at the onset of a Section 503 focused review. However, during the review, OFCCP may request and review this information. OFCCP may request compensation and promotion data for individuals who identified as having a disability, are known to have a disability, and/or employees who requested a reasonable accommodation. Additionally, based on a review of data in response to 41 CFR 60-741.44(k), OFCCP may request additional applicant flow data for job groups that had applicants with disabilities.
Will focused reviews take place at all contractor facilities?
The first round of Section 503 focused reviews will take place at contractors’ corporate headquarters locations. OFCCP will evaluate whether it wishes to schedule other establishments for focused reviews in the future.
What will OFCCP examine and assess during a Section 503 focused review?
During a Section 503 focused review, OFCCP will assess the contractor’s compliance with all elements of the Section 503 regulations, including whether the contractor conducted the required assessments of its employment policies and tracked appropriate data concerning individuals with disabilities.
OFCCP will also provide compliance assistance identifying ways in which contractors can go above and beyond the minimum requirements by implementing best practices intended to increase the utilization of qualified individuals with disabilities within their workforce. During a review, OFCCP will collect information about any measures the contractor has taken beyond those required in the regulations. For those contractors that demonstrate innovative and successful diversity and inclusion efforts for individuals with disabilities, OFCCP will examine ways to recognize the contractor for its efforts, consistent with OFCCP’s Directive 2018-06, Contractor Recognition Program.
Has OFCCP identified Section 503 best practices to assist organizations and employers with recruitment, hiring, and retention of individuals with disabilities?
Is it permissible for federal contractors to develop and implement diversity and inclusion programs for applicants and employees with disabilities?
Section 503 prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and requires federal contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities. Although not required, OFCCP regulations expressly permit contractors to develop and implement training and employment programs for employees with disabilities, and allow contractors to use disability-related information from applicant and employee self-identification requests to identify individuals with disabilities who may be eligible to benefit from a voluntary training and/or development program focused on the specific needs of individuals with certain disabilities, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) or developmental disabilities. Some contractors have developed successful programs and OFCCP views this strategy as a best practice in a contractor’s efforts to meet its utilization goal and in creating an inclusive workplace for individuals with disabilities.
If a contractor elects to implement such a program, an annual report describing the contractor’s activities as well as the outcomes achieved should be included in the contractor’s Section 503 affirmative action program. Additionally, as required by 41 CFR 60-741.46(a)(1), a description of the program, the policies governing the program, including the name and title of the official responsible for the program, shall be included in the Section 503 affirmative action program. It is important to ensure that such programs do not segregate individuals with disabilities or limit/restrict employment opportunities of any individual with a disability. Additionally, these voluntary training and development programs should not result in discrimination against other groups.
OFCCP recently began issuing Section 503 focused review scheduling letters. When should we expect the compliance evaluation to take place?
Companies should submit all information requested for the desk audit evaluation within 30 days of receiving the Section 503 focused review scheduling letter. However, the on-site portion of the review will not begin until on or after September 1, 2019.
OFCCP developed resources for companies to assist in preparing for the Section 503 focused review. These resources are available on the new Section 503 Focused Review landing page. Companies are also encouraged to contact OFCCP for compliance assistance anytime between receiving a Section 503 focused review scheduling letter and the initiation of the on-site evaluation.
Are federal contractors permitted to proactively recruit and hire individuals with disabilities?
Yes. It is legally permissible for all employers to create programs to proactively recruit and hire individuals with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability rights laws, such as Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, are meant to encourage and foster practices that benefit individuals with disabilities and to permit an employment preference for qualified individuals with disabilities (whether those disabilities are obvious or voluntarily disclosed). In fact, Section 503 requires that covered federal contractors and subcontractors take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment individuals with disabilities. Accordingly, contractors must undertake appropriate outreach and positive recruitment activities that are reasonably designed to effectively recruit qualified individuals with disabilities 41 CFR 60-741.44(f)). Such proactive recruitment and hiring practices should include at least some of the following:
- Enlisting support from state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies, local Social Security Administration Employment Networks (ENs), local disability groups, and placement or career offices of educational institutions that specialize in the placement of individuals with disabilities.
- Incorporating special efforts to reach students who are individuals with disabilities while recruiting at educational institutions.
- Participating in work-study programs for students, trainees, or interns with disabilities.
- Taking any other positive steps it deems necessary to attract individuals with disabilities not currently in the workforce who have requisite skills and can be recruited through affirmative action measures. These individuals can be located through state VR agencies and ENs.
- In making hiring decisions, considering applicants who are known to have disabilities for all available positions for which they may be qualified when the position applied for is unavailable.
While Title I of the ADA generally prohibits pre-employment inquiries of disability status to protect applicants from discrimination based on a disability, this protection does not preclude employers from proactively recruiting and hiring individuals with disabilities. Section 503 requires that federal contractors invite applicants to self-identify as an individual with a disability, for instance, and federal contractors will not violate the ADA by following their Section 503 obligations. To assist federal contractors with meeting this requirement, OFCCP prescribes a Voluntary Self–Identification of Disability form.
Can contractors provide applicants and employees with additional information about the purpose of the form and the potential benefits of self-identification?
Yes. OFCCP's voluntary self-identification form already includes some of this information but we recognize that some contractors may wish to provide additional details or context for job applicants to better understand how the company will use this data and the company's general approach to disability inclusion in the workplace. This additional information may help companies increase rates of form completion and disability self-identification, leading companies closer to meeting the 7% utilization goal established by Section 503.
Are contractors permitted to alter OFCCP's self-identification form?
No. Contractors are not permitted to alter the content of OFCCP's voluntary self-identification form.