OFCCP Chief Denies Imposing Hiring Quotas

OFCCP chief Patricia Shiu responded to my attack on her agency in the Wall Street Journal. Shiu denies that the agency seeks to impose hiring quotas for the disabled. But the agency has always denied that it imposed racial and gender quotas – and federal contractors know that that is a load of hooey. The agency warned contractors that “the primary indicator of effectiveness is whether qualified individuals with disabilities have been hired.”

Shiu had no comment on the article’s observation that the OFCCP is more “pigheaded” now than it was during the Clinton administration.

I expect this is only the beginining of this controversy.

[on Twitter @jimbovard]

Wall Street Journal LETTERS April 18, 2012
.Helping Those With Disabilities Secure Employment .

Regarding James Bovard’s”The Wrong Way to Help the Disabled” (op-ed, April 9): Since the Nixon administration, federal contractors have had a legal obligation to ensure fair employment for workers with disabilities. But Mr. Bovard incorrectly reports that my office could revoke the federal contracts of companies that don’t meet a quota for hiring workers with disabilities. In December, we proposed a rule that would, among other things, set a 7% goal for the employment of qualified workers with disabilities—an aspirational goal to help contractors assess the effectiveness of their outreach and recruitment programs, not a mandatory quota. We made it clear that failure to achieve the goal would not, by itself, constitute a violation of the law, and that no company would lose its federal contracts simply because it failed to meet the goal.

Additionally, Mr. Bovard repeatedly claims that the proposed goals would threaten the productivity of federal contractors—a claim that is not merely offensive, but entirely unsupported by facts. As Greg Babe, CEO of Bayer Corp. noted in a letter to my office, “hiring, promoting, and retaining workers with disabilities is good for our business, good for our shareholders, and good for the communities in which we do business.” Like Mr. Babe, I’ve witnessed firsthand the value that qualified workers with disabilities bring to the workplace. More than 16% of my staff are employees with disabilities, and as the federal contracting community can attest, that hasn’t slowed us down one bit.

We received hundreds of responses during the extended public comment period and our agency is carefully reviewing all of them before proceeding to the next step: drafting a final rule that will promote hiring opportunities for people with disabilities and offer real guidance to help contractors take advantage of all the benefits of expanding their qualified applicant pool.

Patricia A. Shiu
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
Department of Labor

Employment for people with disabilities is lower than it was before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. The government should set an example with what is possible with employees with disabilities. With that said, no one—regardless of disability—can do every job. We all have different abilities and talents. This law must not create animosity toward the disability community but rather place qualified candidates with disabilities in positions where they can excel.

Rodger DeRose
President and CEO
Kessler Foundation
West Orange, N.J.

James Bovard rightly criticizes the Obama administration for seeking to force many businesses to adopt hiring quotas for disabled applicants. Such quotas not only raise costs and slash productivity, but also violate federal law.

The Supreme Court has said that the disabilities-rights laws aren’t “affirmative action” statutes, in cases like Southeastern Community College v. Davis (1979). While these laws require employers to reasonably accommodate disabilities, they don’t require a general preference for disabled applicants, much less quotas. Since these quotas harm taxpayers, undermine merit-based hiring and reduce efficiency, they are invalid under the Procurement Act and court rulings like Chamber of Commerce v. Reich (1996), which limit the president’s power to dictate the hiring decisions of government contractors.

Hans Bader
Competitive Enterprise Institute

The best way to help the disabled isn’t via set-asides but to deploy them in ways that leverage their physical challenges into strengths. We have found, for example, that people who overcome physical challenges to work bring maturity and perspective to their roles as phone-based mentors and coaches for at-risk youth who struggle with truancy. The Dropout & Truancy Prevention Network actually prefers mentors with physical challenges because they tend to be better than the fully physically abled. It is not charity; it is competitive advantage.

Peter A. Gudmundsson
Dropout & Truancy
Prevention Network, LLC

A version of this article appeared April 18, 2012, on page A16 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Helping Those With Disabilities Secure Employment.

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