The Labor Department is under scrutiny this month by a House subcommittee. The Education and the Workforce subcommittee on Workforce Protections is looking at the Labor Department rules that set the target goals for the number of vets and people with disabilities hired by government contractors. The quotas will only instigate expensive litigation, argued Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.). But regulation backers argue that the regulations will support vets and others to become gainfully employed.
The veteran unemployment rate for those who served post-Sept. 11, 2001 is significantly higher than for civilians. There is also a “substantial disparity,” advocates say, between the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities and the unemployment rate for individuals without disabilities. Advocates for veterans also say that vets have earned the quota support.
According to Joe Sharpe, the director of the American Legion’s economic division, employers who put an emphasis on hiring veterans when possible are doing their own part to serve their country. And vets, Sharpe argues, are at a disadvantage, pulled out of the workforce for extended periods of time to serve, which means they have less time and opportunity to gain valuable skills and network. The two regulations, slated to go into effect in March 2014, will set the benchmarks for hiring by government contractors to be at least seven percent individuals with disabilities , and the percentage of veterans determined by the number of veterans presently in the workforce. Currently, the percentage of vets in the workforce is eight percent. Those opposing the rule says that the goals are the same as a quota. However, if a contractor does not comply with the benchmarks for hiring, there are no predetermined fines or penalties.
Mark Perriello, the president and chief executive of the American Association of People with Disabilities argues that the rules are not the same as a quota. The rules, he says, are “an inspirational target” for government contractors. All that is needed is a “good faith effort.” Seven percent is not set in stone. It is a target.
But some advocacy groups are not comfortable with the rules. Contractors will be facing an increase in paperwork requirements.
The public was invited to comment for two months on the federal contractor restrictions.