Karla wrote for her daughter, a high school student with cerebral palsy who, her mom points out, “will be as qualified as anyone else” when she enters the workforce. Gerald wrote to make sure we didn’t forget the continuing barriers Vietnam veterans like him still face when trying to enter or re-enter the workforce. And Mike wrote just to say thank you – for helping people “to live improved lives by having a job.”
For millions of workers around the nation, March 24 was just another Monday, the first day of another week of work. But at the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, March 24 was a special day: the day our rules expanding employment opportunities for qualified workers with disabilities and protected groups of veterans went into effect.
For my staff; for Karla, Gerald and Mike; for the hundreds of people who wrote to us supporting our proposals during the rulemaking process; and for thousands of people like them, March 24 was a day of new opportunities. In fact, leaders from the National Organization on Disability and the Easter Seals have suggested that March 24, 2014, will join the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and even Veteran’s Day as another major milestone in our nation’s journey of expanding rights for veterans and people with disabilities.
These two rules are game-changers. But change is a process, not a switch. That’s true for the contractor community, and it’s true for all of us. Thousands of people have already participated in OFCCP webinars on the new rules, and more training will be coming over the next three months.
At OFCCP, we are committed to getting this right. We know it’s important to be flexible, open and inclusive; to be good enforcers as well as good listeners. We also know that diverse workplaces are better workplaces. They are safer and fairer; they are more productive and, yes, more profitable.
Our job is to protect workers, promote diversity and enforce the law. In doing so, we facilitate the success of businesses, workers and the federal agencies that rely on contracted work. That’s good government and good business sense working together for the good of the country we serve.
Patricia A. Shiu is the director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.