[JURIST] The US Department of Labor [official website] has implemented an exemption to requirements that government contractors have a written affirmative action plan if the contractors are working with the government for the first time on reconstruction projects following Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. Although its unclear whether the temporary exemption will have much impact, the Department said it was aimed at minimizing government paperwork and encouraging more contractors to assist in the reconstruction effort. The announcement, released in a Labor Department memo [PDF text] dated Sept. 9, comes as President Bush has been hit with criticisms that the government's response to the disaster was unfair to minorities. Under the typical regulations, contractors with more than 50 employees and $50,000 in federal contracts must have an affirmative action plan aimed at women, minorities, Vietnam veterans and those with disabilities. The exemption will last for three months unless further extended. Earlier this month, President Bush announced a suspension of a prevailing wage law [JURIST report] for federal contractors to facilitate the relief effort. The Labor Department has more on recovery assistance following Hurricane Katrina. The New York Times has more.