OFCCP Extends Comment Period for Rule On Employment of People With Disabilities

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By Jay-Anne B. Casuga  

The Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has extended to Feb. 21 the comment period for a proposal that would revise regulations pertaining to federal contractors' nondiscrimination and affirmative action obligations for individuals with disabilities, DOL announced Feb. 7.

The 60-day comment period for OFCCP's December 2011 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act originally was scheduled to close Feb. 7 (29 HRR 1323, 12/12/11).

“This action will provide additional time for interested parties to analyze the issues raised in the proposal and to provide their comments,” DOL said. “Individuals and organizations who already have submitted comments may use the extension period to revise or add to their original comments.”

In the NPRM, OFCCP proposed a 7 percent national utilization goal for hiring disabled workers in each job group within a contractor's workforce, as well as several new data collection, recordkeeping, job listing, and outreach requirements.

The proposal also would require contractors to review annually certain personnel processes, such as those related to training and promotion decisions. Additionally, the proposed rule would require contractors to invite job applicants voluntarily to self-identify as disabled at both the pre-offer and post-offer stages of the hiring process.

In a notice signed Feb. 6 by OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu and posted on OFCCP's website, the agency said “various organizations and entities” had submitted comment period extension requests.

“Because of the interest that has been expressed by multiple parties and the department's desire to obtain as much information about its proposals as possible, the department decided to extend the comment period,” a DOL representative told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 7.

Lawmakers, Employer Groups Requested Extensions.

One extension request came from House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.).

In a Jan. 27 letter addressed to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the House members asked OFCCP to provide additional information and documents related to the Section 503 NPRM and to extend the comment period by 90 days (30 HRR 136, 2/6/12).

Commenting on OFCCP's two-week extension, a spokesman for Chairman Kline and the House committee told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 7 that “the department's decision to rush this regulation without a sincere effort to work with Congress and the public is disappointing.”

“There are still a great deal of unanswered questions surrounding this proposal; even the administration admits this regulation would impose significant changes to long-standing policies,” he said. “The committee made a reasonable request that would have given the public additional time to examine the potential consequences and help ensure a responsible approach.”

The Kline and Roe letter was sent after OFCCP had decided last month not to grant, at that time, comment-period extensions requested by approximately 10 employer associations. These organizations had asked for extensions ranging from 45 days to 90 days in order to provide OFCCP with meaningful comment.

Dan Yager, chief policy officer and general counsel of the HR Policy Association, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 7 that OFCCP's two-week extension is a “minimal and insignificant period of time” for providing comment on a proposal that the agency itself has described as a “sea change,” and that the Office of Management and Budget had reviewed for more than 190 days prior to its publication in the Federal Register.

By Jay-Anne B. Casuga  

Text of OFCCP's notice announcing the comment period extension is available at http://op.bna.com/dlrcases.nsf/r?Open=jaca-8r9pjz.