Why Accommodate Matters to Federal Contractors

 In Disability Services

Many are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a landmark bipartisan civil rights legislation that guaranteed protections for people with disabilities. The law not only provides federal guidance and requirements concerning disability accommodations, but also extends to ensure people with disabilities are given appropriate access to public and commercial facilities.

Federal contractors and subcontractors are no stranger to this type of legislation. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 guaranteed similar antidiscrimination standards for programs run by federal agencies, programs that receive federal financial assistance, federal employment, and in the employment practices of federal contractors. The “Rehab Act” established standards prohibiting discrimination, encouraging hiring qualified individuals with disabilities, guaranteeing reasonable accommodations, and requiring accessibility for both paper and electronic documents and communications. If found to be non-compliant by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, federal contractors can face severe penalties, including withholding of payments, termination of contracts and/or debarment.

Accommodate, Symplicity’s cloud-based solution for accommodations case management, can help federal contractors and subcontractors deliver reasonable accommodations to qualified employees fairly and efficiently.

Accommodate simplifies compliance with OFCCP reporting requirements.

In 2013, The Department of Labor and OFCCP provided new guidance and rules under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. The most significant changes include:

  • All organizations working with the government should strive to meet or exceed a 7% benchmark for full time staff with disabilities.

  • These organizations must provide an easy way for current and prospective employees to voluntarily self-identify with a disability.

  • These organizations are expected to track 3 years of data on the number of applicants with disabilities who apply for positions and the number of those applicants who are hired.

  • These organizations may be asked to provide current data on staffing levels of individuals with disabilities as part of OFCCP audits.

The DOL hoped to reduce the high unemployment rate among working-age Americans with disabilities, also citing that new technologies could maximize these employees’ contributions in the workplace. The final rule went into effect March 24, 2014 and applies to all federal contractors and subcontractors with 50 or more employees or more than $10,000 in federal contracts. When the OFCCP conducts an audit, eligible employers must comply with this new guidance on disability hiring and accommodations. The penalties for continued and repeated noncompliance with the Rehabilitation Act could result in penalties, including debarment and a loss of federal funding.

Accommodate provides employees and prospective employees with an easy web-based public form to self-identify and request reasonable accommodations. With Accommodate, inquiries are automatically routed to case managers, who can evaluate, collaborate, and help deliver accommodations to individuals with disabilities. All inputs, updates, decisions, and actions are logged electronically. The result: every employee has equal access to the same centralized resource, while automated workflows help case management staff minimize errors and increase efficiency. Most importantly, when the OFCCP requests information, Accommodate makes it possible to quickly generate accurate, comprehensive reports for auditors. If the OFCCP requests deeper information, Accommodate tracks every step of accommodations cases, from initial request to delivery, making this information easily reviewable and shareable as needed.

Accommodate helps contractors proactively deliver accommodations to qualified employees.

As implied above, the Department of Labor’s guidance attempts to increase hiring rates for individuals with disabilities. A diverse workplace includes a mix of professionals from various backgrounds and life experiences.

Accommodate helps employees with an easy, anonymous way to request accommodations and track the status of these inquiries. Employers can quickly evaluate and deliver reasonable accommodations to these qualified employees while staying in compliance with applicable laws. Employers are more likely to retain employees with disabilities if they provide an effective and hassle-free way to request and receive the appropriate accommodations they need. These companies are also more likely to attract additional high-value employees with disabilities when they can demonstrate their ability to accommodate those who need assistance. This is not only a step towards meeting new Section 503 guidance, but using Accommodate can also help these employers nurture a more diverse workplace in which all individuals can maximize their contributions.

To learn more and download our free whitepaper, visit us here.

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