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Committee Seeks Information on Regulatory Changes Affecting Federal Contractors


Dear Secretary Perez:

On August 27, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor (the department) announced its plans to finalize two new regulations concerning hiring and employment policies of federal contractors and subcontractors. These regulations will change requirements for hiring protected veterans and individuals with disabilities under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA) and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 503), respectively.  Though these regulatory changes have not yet been published in the Federal Register, we understand the requirements will take effect 180 days following publication. To ensure these regulations protect veterans and individuals with disabilities, we are requesting documents and communications relating to the rulemaking. 

The Committee on Education and the Workforce has conducted oversight on these regulations since inception.  The committee’s oversight activities are essential to our common goal of effectively administering and enforcing federal contractors’ nondiscrimination and affirmative action requirements.  In June 2011, we wrote to the department regarding its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on changes to VEVRAA, specifically requesting additional time for public comment. Though the department extended the period for public comment, the extension was for a fraction of the time requested. Following the department’s December 2011 NPRM concerning changes to Section 503, we wrote in January and July of 2012 to express our concerns about the proposed regulation, request additional information, and ask for an extension of the public comment period.  Though the department allowed an additional 14 days for public comment, it again failed to provide the 60 day-extension requested by the committee on behalf of stakeholders.

The department’s responses were inadequate at best, and we continue to have concerns – both substantive and procedural – about the department’s rulemaking.  Specifically, the department has failed to provide information concerning its statutory authority under VEVRAA and Section 503 for establishing a numerical hiring “benchmark” or “utilization goal” for protected veterans and individuals with disabilities, respectively.  The department’s responses regarding how it provided interested stakeholders with the opportunity to engage in in-person meetings with administration officials have been inadequate.  Finally, given the department’s failure to grant the 60-day extensions for public comment periods on each rulemaking requested by the committee and many stakeholders, it appears that in a haste to regulate, the department did not provide interested stakeholders with an appropriate length of time to study and comment on these regulations.  These glaring shortcomings in the department’s rulemaking process only underscore our concerns regarding the likely consequences of these new rules on workers and federal contractors and subcontractors.

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