Tina Williams, Deputy Director of Operations for OFCCP, recently facilitated a webinar on Section 503 Focused Reviews for federal contractors. The webinar provided some high-quality information on where OFCCP stands with Section 503 Focused Reviews and what contractors should expect in their focused reviews. During the webinar, Williams also shared insight into additional workforce data on Individuals with Disabilities (IWD).
Statistics on Individuals with Disabilities
In discussing the importance of a focus on recruiting Individuals with Disabilities, Williams mentioned three significant statistics that show there is work to be done by employers – particularly federal contractors.
The unemployment rate for IWD sits at 7.2%, nearly twice as high as the general unemployment rate as of September (3.7%). Unemployment rate is defined as a percent of individuals who are not working, “despite the fact that they are able and willing to do so.”
On the flip side, the IWD participation rate continues to rise – from 18.7% in 2017 up to 21.3% – according to the most recent numbers. To put it another way, for every 100 IWDs in the general population, about 21 are participating in the workforce. While the increased percentage is a positive, it is still woefully below the participation rate of those without a disability (69.5%).
That leads to the third significant statistic – a 79.5% wage gap for employed IWDs compared with the income of individuals without a disability. There are a number of factors that play a role in a wage gap between the two groups. However, it’s imperative that employers recognize problems in their hiring and compensation practices that may show discrimination toward IWDs, whether it be in the organization’s process or biases in the decision-making.
Section 503 Focused Reviews Desk Audits
Williams gave some insight into what contractors should expect to provide for their desk audits should they receive a scheduling letter. Thus far, only a small percentage of employers on the CSAL for Section 503 have begun the audit process as OFCCP continues to work through the list.
Williams stressed that a contractor’s desk audit for a Section 503 Focused Review will require the submission of its full Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) for review; however, she stressed that OFCCP would only be looking at the pieces related to Section 503.
Additionally, Williams confirmed that OFCCP is preparing another CSAL list to be released in November, which will include 500 companies for a VEVRAA Focused Review.
Section 503 Focused Reviews On-Site Audits
Finally, Williams noted there are ongoing conversations regarding the mandatory interviews for on-site audits, as employee interviews are currently optional. Williams did provide some insight into what OFCCP will be checking when they visit each site:
- Self-Identification process: Is the employer keeping self-ID forms separated from the application process?
- Employer application process: How inclusive is it for IWDs?
- Are the proper notices and postings visible and available?
- What is involved in the employee orientation process? Is it IWD friendly?
- When were the employer’s policies last updated?
- With your outreach activities and events (e.g. career fair, open house, informational session, etc.), how many referrals and hires are made?
- Are the outreach activities and events focused on employment?
- How are you assessing these outreach activities?
- What are your goals and how effective is your outreach?
- Who is your target audience, who is participating, and what are the outcomes?
Additional OFCCP Information
Of note, OFCCP is telling contractors that it understands there is an enormous challenge in terms of applicants and hires completing self-ID forms. The agency recognizes some things are out of employers’ control and encourages them to focus on things they can control.
There are some tools and sites that may help in this regard. OFCCP is advocating the Department of Labor’s (DOL) self-ID video as a guide. Also, employers can check out AskEarn.org and the Job Accommodation Network Workplace Toolkit for additional information and support. In the meantime, OFCCP will be revisiting the self-ID form in the future and making updates.
Furthermore, OFCCP continues to add resources for contractors to review and utilize when they have questions. Among other items, OFCCP added a Contractor Assistance Portal where employers can ask questions, join conversations, and share experiences as part of the contractor community.