A new rule proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Obama Administration would set a goal of hiring 7 percent of its federal contracting workforce as employees with disabilities. The proposed rule is not official yet; it will go through a review and public comment process that may change the percentage.
The proposed rule is over and above the regulations imposed by the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, employers must make only "good faith efforts" to avoid discrimination against the disabled in the hiring process. The new hiring standard would allow the DOL to get involved if a federal contractor was not in compliance with the percentage.
In part, the suggested rule change is an attempt to reduce the unemployment rate among Americans with disabilities. Currently the unemployment rate is one and a half times the rate of other Americans at 13 percent. According to the Huffington Post article, the Obama Administration also reported that 79 percent of Americans with disabilities are no longer looking for employment, whereas the number for unemployed workers without disabilities is 30.5 percent.
A spokesperson for the American Association of People with Disabilities said, "This is the first time that the protection of job opportunities will be clear and enforced. This is a move forward." Critics, however, say that employment regulation of businesses hurts growth and prosperity.
Source: Huffington Post, "Obama Takes Aim at Contractors Who Discriminate," Dave Jamieson, 12/8/2011