DOL updates affirmative action requirements for apprenticeship programs
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has updated its affirmative action rules for apprenticeship programs.
The rules apply to all sponsors of apprenticeship programs officially registered with the DOL or with a recognized state apprenticeship agency. The rules take effect on January 18, 2017, but the requirements are phased in over a two-year period. The states have one year to submit draft language to the DOL bringing the state rules into compliance with the new federal rules (81 Fed Reg 92026, Dec. 19, 2016). Key changes in the rules include the following:
- As of the effective date of the rules, sponsors must notify all apprenticeship applicants and all current apprentices of their right to file a discrimination complaint with the government, using specified language. Sponsors must also retain records for five years.
- Within 180 days after the effective date of the rules or upon registration of a new apprenticeship program, whichever is later, sponsors must comply with updated nondiscrimination provisions. These have been expanded beyond race, color, religion, national origin, and sex to include sexual orientation, age (40 or older), genetic information, and disability. “Sex” is now defined to include pregnancy and gender identity. When announcing apprenticeship openings, sponsors must incorporate an “equal opportunity pledge” with specified language.
- Sponsors have two years from the effective date (or the date of approval/registration of the apprenticeship plan, whichever is later) to come into compliance with the revised written affirmative action plan (AAP) requirements. The AAP requirements apply if the apprenticeship program has 5 or more apprentices. Sponsors with smaller programs don’t have to compile a written AAP. Also, sponsors don’t have to create a separate written apprenticeship AAP if they are already complying with federal affirmative action requirements with respect to their apprenticeship programs, provided the goals for any underrepresented group are at least equal to the goals required under these new rules.
- When assessing underutilization and setting goals for employment of women and minorities in the written AAP, sponsors must set goals according to separate racial/ethnic groups instead of lumping all minorities together.
- A new requirement to assess disability utilization has been added to the written AAP, with a national goal of 7 percent. Sponsors must invite apprenticeship applicants and new hires to self-identify whether they have a disability. They must also make a one-time invitation to each current apprentice, and thereafter remind apprentices annually that they may voluntarily update their disability status. The DOL will post a form on its website for employers to use.
Tips: The DOL has stated that it will offer compliance assistance to help employers meet the new requirements. If you sponsor an apprenticeship program that is officially registered with the DOL, contact the local DOL apprenticeship office to initiate this process. If your apprenticeship program is registered with a state agency, you should have more time to comply, since the state will first have to update its regulations before these requirements take effect. For more information, see the DOL’s website on equal employment opportunity in apprenticeships.