What Hiring Benchmarks Mean for Federal Contractors

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As part of the 2014 updates and enhancements to the OFCCP requirements, federal contractors are required to meet or exceed what is referred to as hiring benchmarks for two specific groups of employees and candidates:

1) Veterans

2) People with disabilities

What is a Hiring Benchmark?

Federal contractors are expected to hire specific protected categories that meet or exceed thresholds. The hiring benchmark is a percentage requiring that companies who are federal contractors have a number of employees hired within each of the two abovementioned employee groups meet or exceed the hiring benchmark set by the Department of Labor with annual published changes and updates. The hiring benchmark is focused on a percentage of hires and should not be confused with a percentage of candidates which is important. However, the expectation is that an organization must hire and employ a specific minimum percentage of veteran and employees with disabilities. 

The hiring benchmark for veterans was recently updated for 2017 hiring requirements at 6.7%. The expectation from the Department of Labor is that nearly 7% of all candidate applications for a company who is a federal contractor be veteran candidates. There is a similar, yet higher hiring benchmark for individuals with disabilities.

Companies who are federal contractors must not only comply with federal regulations, while also building trust with the protected job seeker community to strengthen their employer brand. The OFCCP oversees compliance and issues fines, but the DOL is involved in the actual litigation.

Job Applicants Are Encouraged to Self-Identify

In order to determine if you meet the hiring benchmarks set forth for hiring veterans and those with disabilities, federal contractors must make sure that candidates self-identify in the hiring process. This normally happens as part of the online application. While the information isn’t used in the decision-making process whether the candidates if offered the job or not, it is important for a company to determine if they are doing enough targeted diversity outreach, engaging the right candidates and employing them at their company.

Companies like AT&T, which is a federal contractor, provide candidates an opportunity to self-identify early in the hiring process and offer a second chance after a job offer is extended. This helps to ensure they are capturing the correct candidate and soon to be employee information which is then used in their annual affirmative action reporting and available for business leaders and the OFCCP should there be an audit. These hiring benchmarks help provide organizations a minimum level of expectation and provide them a temperature gauge when determining how successful their veteran or disability focused diversity program is.

The self-identification process for candidates also allows companies an opportunity to determine how diverse their recruiting efforts for other diversity programs. It’s even more beneficial if the organization captures candidate source information in the form of self-reporting, or data that is cookied, allowing the company to understand the diversity recruiting sources like diversity job boards, affinity communities and events that lend the highest number of candidates as well as diverse hires by group.

Keep in mind that hiring benchmarks and self-identification are different than good faith recruiting efforts. They are related but good faith efforts aren’t always designed to measure to impact, success, volume or failure of a diverse recruiting source, community or program.

Hiring Benchmarks for Non-Federal Contractors

It’s easy to think that because you are not a federal contractor, you are not required by law to employ diverse candidates. Companies are still required by law to uphold Title VII, the ADA, GINA, and ADEA as well as many other employment laws. Certain candidate and employment groups are protected from discrimination including age, sex, religion, disability, genetic information, race/color, national origin, and pregnancy. These are federal requirements. Your state or city may have specific requirements that protect other individuals including LGBTQ communities. This means that employees as well as candidates can’t be discriminated as part of the hiring process for these reasons. Sadly, veterans are not included in this list.

While companies that aren’t federal contractors aren’t obligated to meet hiring benchmarks and provide an opportunity for candidates to self-identify, that doesn’t mean that organizations are off the hook from diversity efforts, whether it’s focused on recruiting, community outreach or within the organization.

Organizations perform better when they have a diverse employee community. Employees deserve to be treated fairly and consistently regardless of their protected class, which is why organizations should be focused on creating an inclusive workplace while also providing organization leaders with training to handle a variety of employment situations.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell is the founder of Workology, a digital resource that reaches more than a half million HR and workplace leaders each month and host of the Workology Podcast. Jessica lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, daughter, and an assortment of furry family members.


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