As the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs look for ways to encourage equal employment opportunity best practices, the implementation of the Excellence in Disability Inclusion (EDI) Award could motivate federal contractors to step up their efforts. Thus, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has formally announced that nominations for the EDI Award are now being accepted for 2019.

Up to 20 contractors may be recognized for their outstanding achievements in the area of recruiting, hiring, retaining, and promoting individuals with disabilities through the EDI Award. These employers would have their programs and practices showcased as an example for how all contractors should handle their inclusion efforts. The selections for this group, called "Pacesetters," will certainly get a boost in reputation, recruiting, and potential business thanks to their recognized success.

The big prize, however, is given to the "Gold Award" winners. Up to four federal contractor establishments will be chosen (two large and two small) as Gold Award recipients. These employers will earn a three-year moratorium, meaning OFCCP will not select these contractors for a compliance evaluation for at least three years. Considering the time commitment an audit requires, and the possibility of violations harming an organization, the possibility of winning this award through proactive disability inclusion efforts could be an enormous incentive for companies.

While there are positives to winning the award, some employers see a drawback to being named an EDI recipient. All winners are required to participate in a "Year of Engagement" program where OFCCP and ODEP "will oversee the recipients' involvement in outreach efforts." That involvement includes things such as webinars, national conversations online, presentations at conferences, and other outreach to employers. Some have some this could give contractors pause having to commit to this partnership.

It remains to be seen how time-consuming and intrusive the "Year of Engagement" will be for employers, and if the pros outweigh the cons for EDI Award winners. For those interested in learning more, you can get additional details on the DOL website. Nominations must be submitted by August 31, 2019.

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