Tag Archives: proposed regulations

OFCCP Releases Proposal Requiring Contractors to Disclose Compensation Data Annually

On August 6, 2014, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requiring federal contractors and subcontractors with 100 or more employees to submit an annual equal pay report. This compensation data tool was published in response to President Obama’s April 8, 2014 Presidential Memorandum calling for proposed regulations to be published within 120 days.

The equal pay report will have a significant impact on federal contractors. According to OFCCP, the equal pay report will “enable OFCCP to direct its enforcement resources toward federal contractors whose summary data suggests potential pay violations, while reducing the likelihood of reviewing companies that are less likely to be out of compliance.” The proposed rule was officially published in the Federal Register on August 8, 2014. There is a 90-day public comment period with comments due by November 6, 2014.

Who Must File

The proposed rule applies to prime contractors and first tier subcontractors (and construction subcontractors of any tier) who are required to file EEO-1 Reports, have more than 100 employees, and have a federal contract, subcontract, or purchase order amounting to $50,000 or more lasting for at least 30 days (including modifications).

OFCCP is also considering covering postsecondary academic institutions that file the IPEDS report with the Department of Education.

Requirements of Equal Pay Report

The NPRM contemplates requiring covered federal contractors to submit an equal pay report that includes the following information:

  • Total number of workers within each EEO-1 job category by race/ethnicity and sex;
  • Total W-2 wages for all workers in each EEO-1 job category broken down by race/ethnicity and gender; and
  • Total hours worked for all employees in each EEO-1 category by race/ethnicity and gender.

No individual employee pay data will be required.

Reporting Method

OFCCP plans to design a web-based portal for covered contractors to report and maintain compensation information. OFCCP indicates that the webportal would be protected by applicable government IT security standards where contractors key in their data electronically or upload their forms into the system using the standard formats provided by OFCCP.

Data May be Basis for Audit Not Sanctions

Data from the proposed equal pay report would not in itself result in any sanction or adverse action against the contractor for compensation discrimination, according to OFCCP. However, OFCCP will use the information to prioritize contractors for compliance evaluations. If OFCCP selects a contractor for a compliance evaluation, that review would cover compensation data beyond what is in the contractor’s equal pay report and would involve a more specific and detailed data request that are typical in an OFCCP compliance evaluation.

Aggregate Data

OFCCP is also considering publishing aggregate information based on pay data collected from the equal pay report, but the data will not be specific to any particular contractor. The data could include ranges or averages by industry, labor market, or other groupings.

Effective Date/Comments

OFCCP is proposing an annual reporting window of January 1 to March 31. The data in this report would be based on W-2 earnings for the prior calendar year (Jan. 1- Dec 31) for all employees included in the contractor’s EEO-1 report for that year, which will generally align with the time period covered under a contractor’s W-2 filings.

Implications

The practice of OFCCP using the equal pay report to target its enforcement efforts could potentially eliminate OFCCP’s current random audit selection process and replace it with a targeted selection process. Despite the potential constitutional concerns, contractors should strongly consider conducting proactive pay equity analyses now, so that any areas of concern can be addressed before data is reported to OFCCP. This should include a total compensation analysis since contractors will need to report total compensation (i.e., all wages contained in the Form W-2) rather than just base salary.

Contractors should also be wary of potential confidentiality issues. Although OFCCP attempted to allay contractors’ confidentiality fears, the data, much like EEO-1 reports, could be turned over to private plaintiff’s attorneys for use in civil litigation. OFCCP believes that the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) would exempt the disclosure of contractor data if it can be shown that (1) the contractor is still in business (2) the data is confidential and sensitive, and (3) the release of data would subject the contractor to commercial harm. For now, it is unclear whether these exemptions would actually shield contractors’ pay data in all cases.

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Filed under Compensation, Department of Labor, OFCCP

Executive Order May Block Contractors with Labor Violations from Receiving Federal Contracts

On July 31, 2014, President Obama signed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order (“Executive Order”) that requires contractors to (1) disclose recent violations of various workplace laws before being awarded federal contracts; (2) provide wage notifications to employees and notify independent contractors of their non-employee status; and (3) barring contractors from requiring employees to sign pre-dispute arbitration agreements. This is slated to take effect for new contractors in 2016.

Background on Executive Order

According to a Fact Sheet released with the Executive Order, the purpose of this executive action is to “crack down” on federal contractors by ensuring that companies with a history of employee rights violations do not receive federal contracts. The White House indicated that the “goal of the process created by the Executive Order is to help more contractors come into compliance with workplace protections, not to deny contracts to contractors.” The Obama Administration also believes that the Executive Order will “promote efficiency in federal contracting” by removing “companies with workplace violations” that are “more likely to encounter performance problems.”

The Executive Order comes on the heels of a series of presidential actions geared towards implementing the Obama Administration’s “Year of Action” agenda in light of the stalemate in Congress. As recent as two weeks ago, President Obama signed an executive order making it illegal for federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Covered Contracts

The Executive Order will apply to all federal contracts for goods and services, including construction contracts, where the estimated value of the contract exceeds $500,000. It also requires prime contractors to flow down this requirement to all subcontracts that are not for commercially available off-the-shelf items where the estimated value of the subcontract is over $500,000.

Requirements of Executive Order

Disclosure of Labor Law Violations

As part of the solicitation process for covered contracts, contractors will be required to disclose whether they have any violations of certain federal and state discrimination, wage and hour, leave, and safety laws in the three years prior to bidding on the solicitation. Specifically, the Executive Order requires contractors to disclose violations of the following labor laws:

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”);
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act;
  • The National Labor Relations Act;
  • The Davis-Bacon Act;
  • The Service Contract Act;
  • Executive Order 11246;
  • Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act;
  • The Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act;
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act;
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act;
  • Americans with Disabilities Act;
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act;
  • Executive Order 13658 (establishing minimum wages for contractors); and
  • Equivalent state laws, as defined by the Department of Labor guidance.

Violations of these laws includes “any administrative merits determination, arbitral award or decision, or civil judgment” rendered against the contractor in the three years prior to the solicitation.

As part of this disclosure, contractors will have an opportunity to disclose to the contracting officer any “steps taken to correct the violations” or “improve compliance” with these laws, including any agreements the contractor has entered with a federal or state enforcement agency. If the contractor is awarded a contract covered by the Executive Order, the contractor must provide updated disclosures to the contracting officer every six months for the duration of the contract.

Notification of Wages

Contractors will now be required to provide all individuals performing work on the contract a notification “concerning the individual’s hours worked, overtime hours, pay, and any additions made to or deductions made from pay.” This notification must be provided to employees in each pay period. Contractors will not have to include hours worked in the notification for employees who are exempt from the overtime requirements under FLSA or similar state laws if the contractor has previously informed the employee that they are exempt from overtime.

Independent Contractor Notification

The Executive Order requires contractors to provide written notification to individuals they are treating as independent contractors who perform work on contracts covered by the Executive Order. No details have been provided on what information must be included in this disclosure.

No Mandatory Arbitration Agreements

Contractors being awarded contracts with an estimated value of $1 million will no longer be able to require employees or independent contractors to enter pre-dispute arbitration agreements requiring them to arbitrate claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or sexual harassment claims. This does not apply if:

  • The employee voluntarily consents to the arbitration agreement after a dispute has arisen between the employee and the contractor;
  • The contract is for commercial items or commercially off-the-shelf items;
  • The arbitration agreement was entered prior to the contractor bidding on a contract covered by the Executive Order.

Flow Downs to Subcontractors

Prime contracts must flow down:

  • The requirements to disclose labor law violations for any subcontract of $500,000 or more (except for contracts for commercially available off-the-shelf items)
  • The requirement to provide employees with wage notifications and independent contractors notification of their status in all subcontracts of $500,000 or more (except for contracts for commercially available off-the-shelf items); and
  • The requirement prohibiting certain pre-dispute arbitration agreements for subcontracts with an estimated value exceeding $1 million.

In addition, prime contractors must represent to the contracting officer that:

  • The prime contractor will require each subcontractor to disclose labor law violations to it and update this information every six months; and
  • Before awarding the subcontract, the prime contractor will consider the disclosures submitted to it by the subcontractor to determine whether the subcontractor is “a responsible source that has a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics”.

If violations of labor laws are brought to the attention of the prime contractor, the prime contractor must consider whether “action is necessary”, including whether to award the subcontract or taking remedial measures if the subcontract is already awarded.

Determination of Violations

Before awarding contracts of $500,000 or more, contracting officers are required to consider these disclosures to determine whether the contractor “is a responsible source that has a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics.” The Executive Order has instructed the FAR Council, in consultation with the Department of Labor and other agencies, to issue regulations that provide guidance on what labor law violations “demonstrate a lack of integrity or business ethics” because they are “serious, repeated, willful, or pervasive violations.”

Although contractors will have to wait until the final regulations are issued to understand what types of labor law violations the government may block them from receiving contracts, the Executive Order provides the following guidance:

  • A “single violation of law may not necessarily give rise to a determination of lack of responsibility”, but it will depend on the “nature” of the violation.
  • To the extent existing standards under those labor laws do not provide guidance on the types of violations that are considered “serious, repeated, willful, or pervasive violations”, the government will use the following standards:
    • Violations are “serious” based on, among other considerations: (1) the number of employees affected; (2) the degree of risk posed or actual harm done by the violation to the well-being of the worker; (3) the amount of damages incurred or fines or penalties assessed for the violation;
    • Violations are “repeated” if the contractor has “had one or more additional violations of the same or a substantially similar requirement in the past three years”;
    • Violations are “willful” if the contractor “knew of, showed reckless disregard for, or acted with plain indifference” to whether it was in compliance with these labor laws; and
    • Violations will be considered “pervasive” by comparing the “number of violations” of these labor laws in relation to the size of the contractor.

Contracting officers must give consideration to “any remedial measures or mitigating factors”, such as any corrective actions taken by the contractor. The Executive Order also instructs contracting officers to send information to the “agency suspending or debarring official” as appropriate for serious violations.

Website

The federal government will be developing a website for contractors to report information required by the Executive Order as well as other federal contractor reporting requirements.

Effective Date

The Executive Order will be implemented on all covered contracts in stages on a “prioritized basis” starting in 2016.

 

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Filed under Department of Labor, Executive Order, OFCCP

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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OFCCP Unveils Its 2014 Regulatory Agenda

On November 26, 2013, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) released its semiannual regulatory agenda revealing that it plans to introduce several new regulatory initiatives in 2014.  Among those initiatives are:

Updating Affirmative Action Requirements for Construction Contractors: OFCCP intends to issue a proposed rule by April 2014 overhauling the affirmative action regulations for construction contractors.  The last revision of these regulations was in 1980.  OFCCP indicated that the dated rules for construction contractors “have proven ineffective at making meaningful progress in the employment of women and certain minorities in the construction industry.”  OFCCP intends for the new rules to implement a “new method for establishing affirmative action goals” and implement new requirements that “reflect the realities of the labor market and employment practices in the construction industry today.”

• Developing a New Compensation Tool: Over the last several years, OFCCP has expressed its intent to develop a new tool that it could use to analyze contractors’ compensation practices.  OFCCP released an Advanced Notice of Public Rulemaking in August 2011 asking for contractors to provide input on a potential compensation tool.  In the 2014 regulatory agenda, OFCCP indicated that it would be developing the new compensation tool to “identify contractors likely to violate” OFCCP’s laws and for OFCCP’s “establishment-specific, contractor-wide, and industry-wide analyses.”

• Overhauling the Sex Discrimination Guidelines: OFCCP plans to issue a proposed rule revising its sex discrimination guidelines in May 2014.  These guidelines have not been revised in more than 30 years.  OFCCP indicated that, because the current guidelines are outdated, they warrant a “regulatory lookback” so that OFCCP can “create sex discrimination regulations that reflect the current state of the law in this area.”

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Filed under Affirmative Action Plan (AAP), 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

FAR Council Issues Proposed Rule That Would Require Contractors to Safeguard Their Information Systems

On August 24, 2012, the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (“FAR Council”) issued a Proposed Rule that would require contractors to implement basic safeguards for their information systems to protect non-public information and data of the federal government provided by or generated for the government (“Government Information”). The Proposed Rule adopts most of the “basic” requirements from the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the Department of Defense on March 3, 2012.

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Treasury Issues Proposed Rule That Would Require Contractors To Confirm Good Faith Efforts to Include Women and Minorities in Their Workforce

On August 21, 2012, the United States Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) issued a proposed rule to implement the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (“Dodd-Frank”). The proposed rule requires the Treasury to confirm that its contractors undertake good faith efforts to include women and minorities in their workforce. Section 342 of Dodd-Frank established an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (“OMWI”) in various agencies, including the Treasury, and requires those agencies to ensure “fair inclusion of women and minorities in the [contractor’s] workforce.”

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Filed under Discrimination, EEO, OFCCP