Many colleges and universities are federal contractors and, as such, need to comply with Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ (“OFCCP”) regulations relating to affirmative action. Revised Regulations have been issued by OFCCP addressing affirmative action obligations applicable to disabled individuals under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended ("Section 503"), and to protected veterans pursuant to the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended ("VEVRAA"), and become effective March 24, 2014. Due to the numerous requirements in these new Regulations, higher education institutions that are federal contractors should start reviewing and implementing procedures to ensure compliance. Ten steps that covered institutions should implement by March 24, 2014 include:
1. Review current electronic systems and databases to determine if there is capacity to capture protected veteran and disability status for both applicants and employees. If not, institutions will need to invest in new systems or methods to capture this required data.
2. Review current referral sources to determine if sources are providing qualified protected candidates; sources that are not should be eliminated and/or new ones should be added. This is a key component for meeting the 8% hiring benchmark under VEVRAA and the 7% utilization goal under Section 503.
3. Ensure all required notices are posted. Where notices are posted electronically, make sure they are accessible to all employees, including those with disabilities. For covered institutions that use electronic or internet-based application processes, an electronic notice must be posted and stored with the electronic application to inform job applicants of their EEO rights.
4. Review collective bargaining agreements to determine if the agreements include notice of the institution’s affirmative action and non-discrimination policies and request for cooperation. If they do not, institutions should send annual letters to each union, notifying the union(s) of the policies and requesting cooperation.
5. Review and update the list of all existing subcontracts, including vendors and suppliers, who should be receiving the mandatory written notice to subcontractors of the institution’s affirmative action efforts and request for cooperation.
6. Revise contracts and purchase orders to include the revised mandatory EEO language under both Section 503 and VEVRAA.
7. Make sure solicitations and advertisements include all the protected categories – minorities, females, disabled individuals, and veterans. OFCCP has indicated in recent FAQs that just using "D" and "V" is not adequate since abbreviations must be commonly understood by jobseekers.
8. Update recordkeeping procedures to incorporate the three-year retention requirement for specific records under Section 503 (documentation and assessment of external outreach and data collection analysis) and VEVRAA (documentation and assessment of external outreach, data collection analysis, and benchmarking records).
9. Revise self-identification forms inviting applicants to self-identify at both the pre-offer and post-offer stage of the selection process. All Section 503 invitations must use the new OFCCP form which will be posted on OFCCP’s website once approved. Under the Section 503 Regulations, employees must be invited to self-identify again every five years and reminded on an annual basis that they can voluntarily update their status at any time.
10. Adopt written reasonable accommodation procedures to ensure uniformity in processing requests. The OFCCP’s guidance for creating procedures (listed in Section 503 Regulations as Appendix B) can be used in developing such procedures.