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It is likely that several employers in your community are federal contractors covered under Section 503 new rules (have federal contracts/subcontracts of at least $10,000). Sometimes, however, employers themselves might not fully understand whether they are covered. Who is a cov- ered federal contractor can be confusing and has been challenged in court. This is particularly the case for employers in a rapidly-growing segment of our labor market: healthcare providers. Healthcare providers often have arrangements with the federal government to pro- vide care to certain populations, such as veterans. Do these arrangements “count” as federal subcontracts and, hence, do these employers need to comply with RA Sec- tion 503 new rules? Thus far, it seems the answer is yes. Courts have tended to uphold the federal contractor status of healthcare providers, but have in some cases allowed more time to comply (OFCCP 2014b). To find out which employers could be federal contractors/subcontractors in
hen Sally Jones (not her real name) applied for a nursing job, she worried
2. Know which employers in your community region are federal contractors
about what she might be asked during the interview. During college, she was briefly
hospitalized for severe depression. Though
she has been fine since then, Sally feared she would not be hired if the employer found out. And she had reason to fear. Four months ago, this same employer fired a colleague of Sally’s after taking leave for cancer treat- ments. Before the interview, the HR manager asked Sally to complete a form with a question about whether she was a person with a disability. When she saw this form was voluntary, she quickly folded it up and put it among her belongings to be thrown away later.
The form Sally was being asked to complete was proba- bly the voluntary self-identification form that is now required by the Rehabilitation Act (RA) Section 503
new rules which took effect on March 24, 2014. Because Sally did not trust this employer, she chose to not identify as a person with a disability. Was this the right decision?
Covering over 200,000 workplaces across the U.S., these new rules could have a sweeping impact on the employment of people with disabilities (OFCCP, 2014a). Employers with at least $10,000 in federal con- tracts or subcontracts must comply with the new rules. Much of what has been written about the new rules is directed toward employers. This is understandable; the Section 503 new rules change what employers need to do. Yet, jobseekers and employees with disabilities will also be impacted in several key ways. What do people with disabilities most need to know about Section 503 as they make choices around getting and keeping a job? In what follows, we discuss seven key points about how the new rules for RA Section 503 could impact the choices of job-seekers and employees with disabilities.
1. Understand the basics of RA Section 503
Because the new rules could significantly impact the disability inclusiveness practices of many employers, it’s important for anyone with a disability who has or seeks a job to understand the basics. For the most part, the Section 503 new rules do not grant new rights to people with disabilities in the workplace. Instead, the new rules require employers to implement strategies for improving disability inclusiveness and track progress toward having a workforce that consists of seven per- cent of people with disabilities. The Section 503 new rules also require employers to align with the existing ADA Amendments Act. The U.S. Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) enforces Sec- tion 503 new rules. More information on the Section 503 new rules can be found on the OFCCP website.

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