By Carol L. O’Riordan
On August 27, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced a final rule intended to beef up the provisions of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA) that promote affirmative action for certain categories of veterans in hiring and promotion by federal contractors and subcontractors.
VEVRAA was passed in order to help Vietnam-era veterans and other categories of veterans readjust to civilian life by requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to adopt affirmative action plans for the purpose of hiring and promoting these veterans.
This new development stems from the fact that Labor Department’s finding that the current affirmative action regulations under VEVRAA were insufficient to combat the rate of veterans’ unemployment, which is higher than the rate for nonveterans. Post-September 2001 veterans, in particular, have an unusually high rate of unemployment. The new rules are designed to improve employment opportunities for protected veterans.
Under the new regulations, federal contractors for the first time must adopt a hiring benchmark for protected veterans. They can use one of two benchmarks. The first is a benchmark based on the national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force. That number is now 8 percent. Alternatively, contractors can choose to develop their own benchmarks using current employment data and other factors that reflect the contractor’s special hiring circumstances.
The new and expanded equal opportunity regulations affect all federal contract and federal subcontract actions valued at $100,000 or more relating to employment activities in the United States. If the equal opportunity clause is applied to the contract, it will remain for the duration of the contract, regardless of the dollar value of each subsequent contract year.
The Director of OFCCP is empowered to issue a waiver of the equal employment opportunity clause for any federal contract, although he or she must find that special circumstances are applicable. Special circumstances may include a national security interest. Contractors may also request a waiver for their facilities that are separate, distinct, and not connected with the performance of the contract. Contractors participating in federally-assisted contracts, including state highway administration contracts, are not subject to the regulations.
This is the first of two posts on this topic.