Just don’t call them quotas: disabled-hiring benchmarks for federal contractors

by Walter Olson on September 23, 2013

On Aug. 27, during the reporter-vacation lull before Labor Day, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs finalized its controversial rules requiring federal contractors to adopt “benchmarks” of 7 percent disabled employees in their workforce, a higher percentage than apparently prevails in the workforce at large. [Earlier here, here, here, etc.] OFCCP director Patricia Shiu insists the initiative should not be described as quotas, since contractors falling short will not suffer automatic penalty. Instead, they’ll be thrown into a process of auditing and having their internal procedures put under review and having to demonstrate progress and that sort of thing. Nothing penalty-like about that! Also, if their willingness to go along with this process doesn’t please the federal overseers, they can eventually be debarred from any future contract work, a devastating economic sanction for many firms. Crucially, the feds are applying the regulation to firms’ entire workforce even if only a single division has federal contracts, so that if, say, a food company has one line of business that caters to the military, and nineteen others that do no federal contracting whatsoever, all twenty lines must adopt the quot… sorry, benchmarks. [Cleveland Plain Dealer, OFCCP, Government Executive, Federal News Radio]

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1 Bob Lipton 09.23.13 at 8:08 am

I think that they should hire people with Tourette’s Syndrome to liase with the Department of Labor.


2 Rogers turner 09.23.13 at 8:09 am

Employers should take comfort though in ever expanding theories of disabilities (phobias/obesity/addictions) that may help them achieve these “goals”

3 Rusty Bill 09.23.13 at 8:42 am

Damn, Turner, beat me to it. :)

4 Fubar 09.23.13 at 9:33 am

I would further augment the ranks of liaisons to DoL by including persons diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder. That could add as many as 6 million to the pool of possible hires.

Including free martial arts and body building training in their benefits package would also be a nice touch.

5 DEM 09.23.13 at 12:55 pm

This could really ignite the labor market as applied to disabled persons, who will be in high demand. That’s especially true because it seems nearly all of them are already on extended vacations coutesy of SSDI.

6 rogers turner 09.23.13 at 2:14 pm

So, will employers be able to defend against ADA claims arising out of the intereview process by asserting they were only trying to comply with this directive by asking about disabilities?

7 Chris Hoey 09.23.13 at 3:13 pm

As counsel for a major retailer for years, I strongly advised against entering into any Federal contracts in any subsidiary of any size or amount for any purpose. The cost of complying with the DOL regs for a Federal Contractor under EO 11246 in a company with thousands of stores in the USA would have been astronomical. We even had to cancel a program that benefited only the veterans with no money coming to the corporation because the Dept of Veteran Affairs contended that merely permitting our employees who were veterans to apply for a stipend for training made us a Federal Contractor.
The Bureaucratic hoops and record keeping, etc., under the regulations are unbelievable.

8 wfjag 09.23.13 at 3:50 pm

In 1978 this was comedy. Today it is sound career advice for a college grad who wants more than a position in the food service or beverage service industries:


After all, alcoholism is a disability.

9 Robert 09.23.13 at 10:18 pm

We can speculate that similar “quotas” is why Aaron Alexis, the Naval Yard shooter, managed to keep employed despite a spotty record. The Administration forced the contractor to employ him.

10 Walter Olson 09.23.13 at 10:29 pm

I think “speculate” is the operative word there, Robert.

11 MattS 09.23.13 at 11:27 pm

Rogers turner,

I suffer from phobia^2 (an irrational fear of phobias). What does that get me?

12 rogers turner 09.24.13 at 9:46 am


I suppose it is similar to having paranoia deemed a disability…you dont really need to prove any real discrimination or disparate impact..if you perceive it, your putative employer is per se liable…win/win….

13 DensityDuck 09.24.13 at 6:23 pm

In a few years we’ll hear about the sudden “epidemic of disability” as more and more Americans register as “disabled”.

And nobody will remember this moment, when it became a legal requirement to hire disadvantaged persons, and an incentive to declare yourself disabled was created.


On the other hand, one of the biggest barriers to people getting mental-health treatment is the stigma associated with a public declaration of mental illness. Maybe by making disability an actual advantage people will be encouraged to seek mental-health treatment (and, in so doing, have themselves declared disabled.)

14 Boblipton 09.24.13 at 7:09 pm

But Density, Old Duck, given the advantages of being disabled, they’d have to be crazy to seek treatment!


15 DensityDuck 09.25.13 at 12:34 am

It’s a Catch-22. “You can’t get treatment unless you can prove that you’re crazy.” “How do I prove that I’m crazy?” “You refuse to seek treatment.”

16 Melvin H. 09.28.13 at 7:51 am

Sounds also like Corporal Klinger’s many attempts to get a Section-8 discharge out of the Army on “M*A*S*H”. (Imagine how the ADA would work in THAT circumstance.)

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