The Labor Dept. has issued a pair of final rules that set new requirements for federal contractors in recruiting and hiring veterans and individuals with disabilities. The department says the regulations, announced on Aug. 27, will provide more job opportunities for people in those groups.

But major construction contractor organizations blasted the rules, particularly their new record-keeping requirements, and say they are studying possible court challenges.

Both regulations are slated to take effect six months after they are published in the Federal Register. Publication was expected in the near future.

Federal contractors have had affirmative-action requirements for veterans and people with disabilities for about 40 years, under the 1974 Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act and the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, respectively.

The new regulations, issued by Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), make changes in earlier rules issued under those statutes.

Patricia A. Shiu, OFCCP director, said in a statement, “Strengthening these regulations is an important step toward reducing barriers to real opportunities for veterans and individuals with disabilities.”

The new rule that applies to veterans requires contractors to adopt an annual Labor Dept. veterans-hiring “benchmark,” currently 8%, or to set their own percentage.

The regulation covering people with disabilities establishes a new “aspirational goal” that such individuals account for 7% of contractor and subcontractor “job groups.”

In the rule, OFCCP says the 7% figure is not a quota but “a management tool that informs decision–making and provides real accountability.” It adds that failing to achieve the 7% goal alone “is not a violation of the regulation and it will not lead to a fine, penalty or sanction.”

A contractor whose workforce totals 100 or fewer employees can apply the 7% goal to its entire workforce, instead of each job group, it adds.