Category Archives: Discrimination

OFCCP Publishes Final Rule Prohibiting Numerous Forms of Sex Bias

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) has issued revisions to the long-standing sex discrimination rules for federal contractors and published the Final Rule in the Federal Register on June 15.  The Final Rule goes into effect on August 15, 2016.

The Final Rule addresses compensation discrimination, pregnancy accommodations, discrimination based on gender identity, and sex stereotypes.

Compensation Discrimination: The Final Rule prohibits discriminatory wages, but specifies that OFCCP will use a case-by-case approach in evaluating the pay practices during an audit.  OFCCP opted not to adopt a prior iteration that would have required contractors to pay equal wages to similarly-situated employees, but instead is requiring fair pay for comparable work.  Therefore, compensation differences stemming from neutral factors, such as tenure, are likely permitted.

Pregnancy Accommodations: The Final Rule is consistent with the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits sex bias on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.  The Final Rule requires contractors to provide accommodations to pregnant employees that are comparable to accommodations that would be provided to disabled employees.  Some examples of potential pregnancy accommodations are more frequent bathroom/hydration breaks and light-duty assignments.

Transgender Bias: The Final Rule reiterates the 2014 rule that discrimination based on gender identity is prohibited.  The Final Rule clarifies that contractors must allow employees to use bathrooms and other segregated specific facilities that are consistent with their gender identity.  The rule does not address how contractors in states requiring bathroom usage to correlate with biological sex, such as North Carolina, are to handle the competing directives.  The Final Rule also requires contractors to provide equal fringe benefits regardless of gender identity.  OFCCP is explicit that excluding medical coverage for an employee’s gender transition will be deemed facially discriminatory.  Recognizing that changes to benefit plans may take time, OFCCP said that it will consider contractors’ good faith progress on this front in determining whether an enforcement action is appropriate.

Sex Stereotypes: The Final Rule prohibits sex stereotyping.  Sex stereotyping includes judging an employee based on his/her conformance to sex-based appearance norms.  Sex stereotyping also encompasses making employment decisions based on stereotypes of “proper roles” of males/females with regard to caregiving.  OFCCP cites studies showing that mothers are less likely to be hired and are typically paid less than non-mothers, so prohibits decisions on account of one’s caregiver role.  The Final Rule also prohibits limiting roles to a specific sex; however, includes a narrow carve-out where sex is a bona fide occupational qualification because it is “reasonably necessary to the normal operation” of a “particular business or enterprise.”

Contractors should review their policies to ensure compliance with the Final Rule prior to the August 15 effective date.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Affirmative Action Plan (AAP), Discrimination, OFCCP, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs

OFCCP Corrects Proposed Changes to Its Complaint Form

On February 19, 2014, OFCCP published a correction to its notice seeking comments on its form for individuals to file discrimination and retaliation complaints.  The complaint form, which is designated as Form CC-4, requests information from individuals making complaints of discrimination and retaliation against federal contractors and subcontractors, including whether the complainant believes the contractor has discriminated or retaliated against others.  OFCCP has shown an increasing interest in pursuing individual complaints of discrimination and retaliation over the last few years, and these proposed changes suggests that it plans to continue the trend.

The original notice published in the Federal Register on February 5, 2014 provided a slightly revised version of the Form CC-4 and sought comments on:

  • Whether the proposed collection of information is useful or necessary for OFCCP to perform its functions;
  • Whether OFCCP accurately estimated the burden of collecting this information; 
  • Whether any improvements needed to be made to the quality, utility and clarity of the information requested in the form; and
  • How to minimize the burden on those who are completing the form, such as permitting electronic submissions.

 In the correction notice, OFCCP made several revisions to its notice and proposed complaint form, including:

  • Revising the statement in the notice that incorrectly indicated that the proposed complaint form was currently available on OFCCP’s website; and
  • Updating several fields that were left blank in the proposed complaint form, including the three fields located in the left-hand column and the third and bottom rows of the form.

 Interested parties will still have until April 7, 2014 to submit comments on the proposed complaint form.

Leave a comment

Filed under Department of Labor, Discrimination, OFCCP

Cargill Agrees to Pay $2.2 Million to Settle Hiring Discrimination Charges By OFCCP

On January 22, 2014, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) announced that it was settling a case with Cargill Meat Solutions (“Cargill”) for $2.2 million relating to allegations of hiring discrimination based on race and gender.  The settlement stemmed from OFCCP’s investigation of multiple Cargill facilities between 2005 and 2009.  During these reviews, OFCCP alleged that Cargill’s hiring practices for production jobs at several of its facilities discriminated against 2,959 females, African-American, Hispanic, and Caucasian applicants.  OFCCP also allegedly found a number of record-keeping violations at Cargill.

In addition to paying $2,236,218 in back wages, Cargill also agreed to extend job offers to 354 former applicants who were rejected for positions and to undertake extensive self-monitoring measures to ensure full compliance with OFCCP’s laws.

Leave a comment

Filed under Department of Labor, Discrimination, OFCCP

OFCCP Receives Final Approval of New Voluntary Self-Identification Form for the Disabled

On January 22, 2014, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) approved the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program’s (“OFCCP’s”) new self-identification form for individuals with disabilities.  According to OFCCP’s new regulations under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Disability Regulations”), federal contractors and subcontractors will be required to use this new form to offer all applicants and employees an opportunity to self-identify as individuals with disabilities. 

After receiving thoughtful comments from the contractor community, there were number of improvements that were made to proposed version.  For example, the final form now includes a section for applicants to indicate that they do not have a disability and allows candidates to identify their name and the date the form was completed.  Significantly, however, the form still asks individuals to disclose if they “ever had a disability.”  This is problematic because this may increase the number of candidates who self-identify as disabled thereby (1) increasing the chance of there being statistically significant adverse impact on unselected applicants who self-identified as disabled; and (2) increasing contractors exposure to failure to hire claims under the “regarded as” prong of the ADA because employers will be on notice that these candidates are disabled.

Despite some of the lingering concerns with the form, contractors must prepare to put this in place by their first affirmative action plan cycle following the March 24, 2014 effective date of the Disability Regulations.  Contractors will be required to use this exact form without modification, but they can create an electronically fillable copy of the form that displays the OMB number and expiration date, contains the text of the form without alteration, use a sans-serif font (such as Arial or Calibri), and at least 11-pitch font size (with the exception of the footnote and burden statement, which must be at least 10-pitch in size).  Contractors will also be required to provide this form to applicants both pre and post-offer, and the form must be provided to employees at least once every five years.

Leave a comment

Filed under Affirmative Action Plan (AAP), Department of Labor, Discrimination, OFCCP, Rehabilitation Act

OFCCP Concedes ALJ Ruling that “Non-Asian” Is Not a Proper Class

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) filed a notice on September 19, 2013 with the Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (“ARB”) indicating that it will not appeal the Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ’s”) ruling in OFCCP v VF Jeanswear Ltd Partnership, (ALJ Case No 2011-OFC-00006, Krantz, K), that “non-Asian” does not constitute a “race” for the purposes of Executive Order 11246 enforcement.

ALJ Ruling

On August 5, 2013, the ALJ ruled that OFCCP could not pursue a finding of discrimination against a contractor on behalf of “non-Asians.”  In that case, OFCCP alleged that VF Jeansware discriminated against 288 “non-Asian” applicants for positions in its Operative job group at its Winston-Salem, North Carolina establishment.   OFCCP alleged there was statistically significant adverse impact against “non-Asians” based on VF Jeansware hiring only sixteen percent of the incumbents for Operative positions from its non-Asian applicant pool as compared to hiring nearly forty-four percent of the Asian applicant pool for positions in that same job group. 

Upon review, the ALJ held that OFCCP could not establish a discrimination claim against “non-Asians” because “non-Asians” were not a protected class.  Although the ALJ acknowledged there was disparate impact on “non-Asians”, he found that “non-Asian” is not a term defined in the regulations and was an aggregate of three ethnic groups (i.e., Whites, African-Americans, and Hispanics).  The ALJ noted that while Whites were underrepresented, African Americans were close to the percentage of African-Americans available in the regional data and Hispanics were actually “overrepresented.”  The ALJ also explained that the only accepted “race” and “ethnic group” classifications for both EEOC and OFCCP purposes are African-American, Native American/Alaskan Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, and White.  Although “non-whites” can constitute a protected class of “minorities”, the regulations do not recognize other “non-” classifications for the purposes of analysis and enforcement. 

OFCCP had thirty days to appeal the ALJ’s ruling to the ARB.  OFCCP filed a notice with the ARB on September 19, 2013 waiving its right to appeal the ALJ’s ruling, and, on September 25, 2013, the ARB issued an order closing the case.

Impact of Ruling

Over the last several years, OFCCP has moved away from conducting adverse impact and disparity analyses at the aggregate level of comparing minorities to non-minorities (i.e., White).  Instead, OFCCP has increasingly been comparing sub-minority and ethnic groups to find cases of disparate impact.  In some instances, such as the VF Jeanswear case, OFCCP has been aggregating certain ethnic and minority groups to increase their odds of finding disparate impact.  Many in the contractor community believed that this type of analysis was unsound and unsupported by the Title VII principles that apply to OFCCP discrimination cases.

The ALJ’s ruling along with OFCCP’s decision not to challenge it emphasizes that OFCCP cannot base discrimination claims on these aggregate ethnic and racial groups.  Contractors, however, should still be prepared during audits for OFCCP to analyze their selection decisions by comparing the highest group selected against each sub-minority or ethnic group that was not selected.

Leave a comment

Filed under ALJ, ARB, Department of Labor, Discrimination, OFCCP

OFCCP Continues to Overhaul Its Investigatory Platform with the Release of the New Federal Contractor Compliance Manual

Late last week, OFCCP released the much anticipated update to the Federal Contractor Compliance Manual (“FCCM”).  The FCCM provides the procedural framework compliance officers use when auditing federal contractors and subcontractors.  The last version of the FCCM was published in the late 1980s, and OFCCP has been hinting over the last couple of years that it would be releasing a new FCCM.

The new 500-plus page FCCM includes the same basic structure as the previous version, but adds a new section for reviews of functional affirmative action plans.  The FCCM has also been updated to reflect OFCCP’s current policies and procedures regarding investigating contractor’s practices for compliance and the remedies it will pursue if violations are uncovered.  For example, the new FCCM contains new procedures for compliance officers to use when conducting adverse impact analyses, reviews of compensation, and calculating back pay awards for discrimination.

The new FCCM covers the following topics:

  • Desk audits of contractors’ compliance with OFCCP’s laws;
  • Onsite reviews of contractors’ establishments;
  • Compliance reviews of construction contractors;
  • Procedures for conducting Corporate Management Compliance Evaluations;
  • Compliance reviews of FAAPs;
  • Investigations of individual and class complaints;
  • Designing remedies for employment discrimination violations; and
  • Procedures for resolving violations during compliance evaluations.

The FCCM also contains a glossary of key words and phrases and includes examples of model forms, letters, and worksheets compliance officers can use during compliance evaluations. 

OFCCP was quick to note that the revised FCCM is nonbinding and is “subject to change without public notice.”  OFCCP released the new FCCM internally to its compliance officers earlier this summer, so many of them are prepared to implement the new procedures in the FCCM.  OFCCP also held a public webinar explaining the updated FCCM on August 27, 2013 and will be making the slides and recording from the webinar available on its website.

We anticipate that with the official release of the FCCM, contractors will notice a change in the posture of audits.  For the last several years, OFCCP has been overhauling its entire investigatory platform “piece-by-piece,” including revamping how it investigates contractors’ compensation systems.  The new FCCM is yet another signal that OFCCP will be conducting more intensive and far-reaching reviews of contractors’ practices.

Leave a comment

Filed under Affirmative Action Plan (AAP), Compensation, Department of Labor, Discrimination, OFCCP

OFCCP Issues Directive Warning Contractors of Potential Discrimination Claims Resulting From the Use of Criminal Records

On January 29, 2013, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) issued Directive Number 306 (the “Directive”) warning federal contractors and subcontractors about potential discrimination claims that could result from their use of criminal conviction records.  Over the last several years, federal, state, and local governments have increasingly cracked down on employers using criminal convictions to screen applicants.  On April 25, 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued detailed guidance on the best practices for employers to avoid discrimination claims when using arrest and conviction records to make employment decisions.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Discrimination, EEOC, OFCCP