Tag Archives: Department of Labor

OFCCP Announces Timeline for Issuing Proposed Rules on President Obama’s Compensation Agenda

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) plans to issue proposed rules implementing President Obama’s recent executive actions on the compensation practices of federal contractors. As we reported last month, President Obama took two executive actions to further his pay equity agenda: (1) he signed Executive Order 13665 prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating and retaliating against employees or applicants for discussing their compensation with one another; and (2) he issued a memorandum (“Memorandum”) directing OFCCP to publish regulations requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to submit pay data by race and gender for their employees.

According to the Department of Labor’s spring 2014 regulatory agenda, OFCCP intends to publish its proposed rules on the Memorandum in August 2014 and the proposed rules under EO 13665 in September 2014. OFCCP also revealed that it was pushing back dates for two key regulatory changes, presumably to accommodate the presidential mandate for OFCCP to publish rules on EO 13665 and the Memorandum. In its 2014 regulatory agenda for the year, OFCCP indicated that it would be issuing proposed rules on its regulations for construction contractors in April 2014 and on its Sex Discrimination Guidelines in May 2014. Now, OFCCP has announced that it will not be issuing the proposed updates to the Sex Discrimination Guidelines until September 2014 and moved the date for the proposed overhaul of its regulations for construction contractors until January 2015.

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Filed under Department of Labor, OFCCP

President Obama Takes Executive Action Reinforcing the Regulatory Agenda on Investigating Federal Contractors’ Compensation Practices

In recognition of National Pay Equity Day, President Obama took two executive actions on April 8, 2014 to continue his pay equity agenda: (1) President Obama signed Executive Order on Non-Retaliation for Disclosure of Compensation Information (“Executive Order”) amending Executive Order 11246 to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating or retaliating against employees or applicants for discussing their compensation with one another; and (2) President Obama issued a memorandum directing the Department of Labor (“DOL”) to publish regulations requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to submit pay data, by race and gender, for their employees (“Compensation Memorandum”). These executive actions, along with President Obama’s Executive Order to increase the minimum wage for employees working on federal contracts, mark another significant step in this Administration’s push for increasing enforcement and oversight over federal contractors’ compensation practices.

Executive Order

The Executive Order mandates that federal contractors cannot “discharge or in any manner discriminate against” employees and applicants who have “inquired about, discussed, or disclosed” their own or another employee’s or applicant’s compensation information. The Executive Order explains that the reason for this change is that it will “enhance the ability of Federal contractors and their employees to detect and remediate unlawful discriminatory practices, which will contribute to a more efficient market in Federal contracting.”

The Executive Order excludes from this protection unauthorized disclosures by employees who learn of the compensation information as part of their essential job functions (e.g., HR and compensation managers) unless (1) they are disclosing compensation information to someone who already has access to that information; or (2) they are disclosing that in response to a formal complaint or charge in furtherance of an investigation. DOL will be required to issue regulations implementing this requirement by September 15, 2014.

Compensation Memorandum

The Compensation Memorandum is premised on a claim that the pay gap between men and women is a direct result of a “lack of sufficiently robust and reliable data on employee compensation.” It directs DOL to propose regulations requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to submit data on the compensation paid to their employees, including data by sex and race.

When creating the proposed regulations, the Executive Order instructs DOL to consider:

  • “maximiz[ing] efficiency and effectiveness” by focusing efforts on contractors where the reported data shows pay violations;
  • using the data to “encourage greater voluntary compliance” with compensation laws by federal contractors and “analyz[ing] industry trends”;
  • minimizing the burden on federal contractors, particularly small businesses; and
  • “avoid[ing] new record-keeping requirements” by relying on “existing reporting frameworks to collect the summary data.”

Despite DOL’s announcement in its current regulatory agenda that OFCCP planned to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) on the compensation data collection tool in January 2014, no proposal has yet been published. The Presidential Memorandum will expedite the publication of NPRM because it directs the DOL to propose regulations by August 6, 2014.

Impact on Federal Contractors

The Executive Order prohibiting discrimination and retaliation against employees and applicants does not change much for federal contractors. Sections 7 and 8 of the National Labor Relations Act already provide employees and applicants the right to discuss their compensation information.

The effect of the Compensation Memorandum’s requirement that contractors to disclose their compensation information could be significant, but the precise impact will depend on the details of the regulations. As of now, it is unclear whether OFCCP will develop new or additional compensation reporting requirements and how OFCCP will use the compensation tool to store and analyze compensation data.

We expect OFCCP to continue to ratchet-up its investigation of contractors’ compensation information during audits. This means that contractors should be vigilant about reviewing their compensation practices now and proactively addressing pay disparities before an audit. Now is the time for contractors to consider undertaking pay equity studies and reviews of their compensation policies and practices under the protection of the attorney-client privilege.

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Filed under Compensation, Department of Labor, OFCCP

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.

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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.

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Filed under Department of Labor, Discrimination, OFCCP

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.

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

Compliance Challenges for Federal Contractors During the Government Shutdown

The government shutdown announced yesterday is already making an impact on how companies comply with their obligations as federal contractors.  Congress’ failure to agree on a new budget for the 2014 Fiscal Year has resulted in a furlough of over 800,000 federal workers, temporary closing of numerous federal agencies, and suspension of many services federal contractors rely upon to fulfill their compliance obligations. 

E-Verify

Those effects are already being felt by contractors who use E-Verify.  E-Verify is the internet-based system that federal contractors must use to verify the employment eligibility of their new hires and employees.  The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), who oversee the E-Verify program, announced yesterday that E-Verify will be unavailable during the government shutdown.  This means that contractors will not be able to enroll in E-Verify, verify employment eligibility of any new hires or existing employees, or take any administrative actions relating to their E-Verify accounts. 

In addition, employees who receive Tentative Non-confirmations (“TNCs”), indicating that their employment eligibility could not be verified through the E-Verify system, will not be able to resolve those TNCs during the government shutdown.  The time for employees to resolve TNCs, however, will be extended by the days that the government is closed.  DHS has also warned that contractors cannot take any adverse action against an employee because of an E-Verify interim case status during the government shutdown.

Contractors will still need to timely and accurately complete I-9 forms for all new hires within three business days of hiring any employee.  Contractors must use the new I-9 form that was issued earlier this year. 

OFCCP Closed for Business

Contractors who have open audits with OFCCP may also experience difficulties due to the government shutdown.  OFCCP has announced that it will be completely closed during the shutdown because it has been declared as part of the “non-essential” government staff.  Contractors who have recently received a scheduling letter or who have an open OFCCP audit with a pending request will need to carefully consider whether they should respond to OFCCP’s during the shutdown. 

We recommend that contractors conduct “business as usual” and timely submit all submissions in order to ensure full compliance.  Contractors should acknowledge the government shutdown in their submissions and request OFCCP contact them after it resumes normal operations.  There may be situations, however, where contractors are concerned about submitting materials by mail to OFCCP that contain confidential and sensitive information since there is no staff at OFCCP to receive the submission.  In that situation, contractors should consider e-mailing the compliance officer to inform him or her that the contractor will send the submission once the government shutdown is over.

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Filed under E-Verify, OFCCP

OFCCP Unveils Its Game-Changing Final Rules for Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities

On August 27, 2013, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) released the long awaited final rules increasing protections for veterans under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (“VEVRAA”) and individuals with disabilities under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 503”).  These new rules will require federal contractors to engage in a number of additional affirmative action and other requirements related to the hiring and retention of veterans and individuals with disabilities. 

As expected, the final rules deviate little from the rules OFCCP proposed for veterans and individuals with disabilities in 2011.  We will be providing additional analyses of these final rules in the coming weeks, but we have provided a brief summary of some of the highlights of the final rules below.  Hold on to your hats as OFCCP continues its game-changing year.

Highlights of Changes to the Veterans Regulations

  •  Hiring Benchmarks: Under VEVRAA, contractors will now be required to set annual hiring benchmarks for protected veterans.  Contractors can establish benchmarks either (1) equal to the national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force, which will be provided by OFCCP annually; or (2) establish their own benchmarks using certain data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service/Employment and Training Administration that will also be published by OFCCP, as well other factors that are unique to the contractor’s hiring circumstances.
  •  New Data Collection and Analyses Requirements:  Contractors will be required for the first time to “document and update annually several quantitative comparisons” analyzing the number of veterans hired by the contractor.  Contractors must maintain this data for at least three years.
  • Revised Procedures for Self-Identification: Before these final rules were issued, contractors were required to offer applicants an opportunity to self-identify their veteran status after being offered employment with the contractor.  Under the new rules, contractors are now required to offer candidates an opportunity to self-identify as covered veterans both before and after the offer phase in the application process.
  • Mandatory Flow-Down Language: OFCCP is now mandating that contractors use specific language to flow down the veteran requirements to covered subcontractors.
  • Required Forms: Contractors will now be required to implement certain formats for listing job openings with State or local job services.

Highlight to Changes to the Disability Regulations

  • Mandatory Utilization Goal:  The final rule for Section 503 mandates contractors set hiring benchmarks for individuals with disabilities.  Contractors will be required to establish a nationwide seven percent utilization goal and conduct annual utilization analyses for individuals with disabilities.  The goal will apply to each job group in the contractor’s affirmative action plan or, for contractors with 100 or fewer employees, their entire workforce. 
  • New Data Collection and Analyses Requirements: Similar to the requirements relating veterans, contractors will also for the first time be required to “document and update annually several quantitative comparisons” analyzing the number of individuals with disabilities hired by the contractor.  Contractors will also be required to maintain this data for at least three years.
  • Revised Procedures for Self-Identification: Prior to the final rules on Section 503, contractors only invited candidates to self-identify their disability status after they were offered employment.  The new rules change that requirement to now obligate contractors to offer candidates an opportunity to self-identify as individuals with disabilities both before and after the offer phase in the application process.  In addition, contractors must use specific language proscribed by OFCCP and offer employees an opportunity to self-identify as individuals with disabilities every five years.
  • Mandatory Flow-Down Language:  Contractors will be required to use OFCCP’s specific language to flow down Section 503 requirements to covered subcontractors.

OFCCP Provides Guidance and Training on Final Rules

For both of the final rules, OFCCP has provided webpages with additional information, including the text of the final rules, fact sheets, and frequently asked questions.  OFCCP will also be holding webinars explaining the final rules on August 30 and September 18 for Section 503 and on August 29 and September 11 for VEVRAA.  You can sign up for these webinars and find the additional information by following these links: Section 503 and VEVRAA

Effective Date of Final Rules

The final rules are expected to be published in the Federal Register within the next two weeks and will take effect 180 days after publication.  This means that contractors will have to implement many of these requirements by the spring of 2014.

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Filed under Affirmative Action Plan (AAP), Department of Labor, Disability Discrimination and Accommodation, OFCCP, Veterans