For years Americans have strived to protect individuals with disabilities and veterans from discrimination. If you can do the job, and do it well, you ought not be disadvantaged by a physical or mental impairment that does not interfere with your ability to do the job. Moreover, if you served your country in the military you ought not be treated unfairly.
Now, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, a division of the Department of Labor, has assigned numbers to those categories for the purpose of forcing equal treatment. Every federal government contractor must undertake efforts to ensure that 7% of those in every job group is composed of individuals with disabilities. Smaller employers can aggregate the workforce to arrive at a “goal” of 7% for the whole workforce. It is not apparent what the Obama administration believes qualifies as a covered disability, though one certainly can expect that courts and lawyers will be busy arguing about it for years to come.
Meanwhile, employers who work with the federal government also must commit to try to force 8% of each workforce to include military veterans. The source of those numbers is not evident. Still, they define the debate. That likely means much more work for employment lawyers.
Much remains to be flushed out. Does an aged lawyer who cannot see without eye-glasses, and who 15 years ago had surgery on a knee that tortures him daily, qualify for coverage as an individual with a disability? If he served four years of honorable service during the war in Vietnam can his employer count him twice? What if he never has been treated unfairly for either reason? We shall find out, and I know just the test case.
The Department of Labor’s guidance on the new regulations can be reviewed by clicking the links below.