As regular readers of this blog are well aware, new OFCCP regulations require federal government contractors to invite applicants to self-identify as individuals with disabilities at both the pre- and post-offer stages of the hiring process.  This requirement has raised numerous questions and challenges for federal government contractors.  The Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”) recently published an article analyzing some of these issues.

One issue addressed in the SHRM article is how to increase the response rate to self-identification requests, which are generally quite low.  Connie N. Bertram—Co-Chair of Proskauer’ s Government Regulatory Compliance and Relations Group—estimated that between 2% to 15% of federal contractor applicants and employees respond to the current post-offer Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability form.  As the article explains, federal government contractors would be well-served by increasing these response rates, particularly in light of the 7% utilization goal and the data metrics requirements of the new regulations.  In addition, obtaining an accurate understanding of the make-up of its workforce assists the government contractor in assessing its outreach and recruitment efforts and general compliance with OFCCP regulatory requirements.

In the article, Ms. Bertram provides employers will practical guidance on how to effectively improve response rates:

  • Explain the purpose of the form to applicants and ensure that they have confidence that their disclosure will be confidential and will not negatively impact their application or employment;
  • Include the voluntary disclosure form for new hires in employees’ new-hire documentation;
  • Ensure that the form is easily accessible, easy to complete, and has features that make it accessible to employees with vision impairments and other employees who may have difficulty completing the form; and
  • Offer employees accommodations if they need assistance completing the form.

While attempting to increase participation rates, Ms. Bertram also warned employers to avoid certain common pitfalls associated with such efforts.  These include:

  • Do not approach employees individually if they elect not to complete the form;
  • Do not take any action against employees who elect not to complete the form;
  • Do not disclose any information disclosed by employees beyond those who have a need to know; and
  • Do not publicize results in a way that individual employees can be identified.

The entire SHRM article may be found here.