Labor rules to boost employment for vets, disabled

The new rules will require government contractors to have disabled workers make up at least 7 percent of their employees.

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WASHINGTON — Veterans and disabled workers who often struggle to find work could have an easier time landing a job under new federal regulations.

The rules, announced Tuesday by the Labor Department, will require most government contractors to set a goal of having disabled workers make up at least 7 percent of their employees. The benchmark for veterans would be 8 percent, a rate that could change from year to year depending on the overall number of former military members in the workforce.

The new requirements could have a major impact on hiring since federal contractors and subcontractors account for about 16 million workers — more than 20 percent of the nation’s workforce. But some business groups have threatened legal action, complaining that the rules conflict with federal laws that discourage employers from asking about a job applicant’s disability status.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez called the new policy a “win-win” that will benefit workers “who belong in the economic mainstream and deserve a chance to work and opportunity to succeed.” He said it also would benefit employers by increasing their access to a diverse pool of new workers.

“To create opportunity, we need to strengthen our civil rights laws and make sure they have the intended effect,” Perez told reporters in a conference call announcing the rules.

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