Two newly issued Labor Dept. affirmative-action rules for federal contractors have sparked harsh criticism from construction- contractor organizations.

The final rules, which Labor announced on Aug. 27, set new requirements for federal contractors in recruiting and hiring veterans and people with disabilities.

The department says the regulations will provide more job opportunities for people in those groups. Advocacy groups for veterans and people with disabilities viewed Labor's move as a positive step. But Sherman Gillums Jr., a Paralyzed Veterans of America official, also wants the jobs that flow from the rule to offer veterans good career prospects and positions that won't be cut due to federal budget sequestration.

But the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Associated General Contractors of America blasted the rules, especially record-keeping mandates, and are studying possible court action.

The rule that applies to veterans requires contractors to adopt an annual Labor Dept. veterans-hiring "benchmark," now at 8%, or set their own percentage. The regulation covering people with disabilities sets a new "aspirational goal" of 7% of contractor and subcontractor "job groups."

Construction contractor groups slammed the rules. AGC's CEO, Stephen Sandherr, called them "oppressive" and said his group "will closely review all appropriate legal options" concerning them. ABC "will explore avenues to challenge the rules in federal court," said Geoff Burr, vice president of government affairs.

The rules are slated to take effect six months after they appear in the Federal Register.