On October 17th, the National Industry Liaison Group (NILG) hosted a webinar featuring guest speakers Tom Dowd, the Acting Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) and Jim Paretti, Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel to the Acting Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Victoria A. Lipnic. The purpose of the presentation was to provide agency specific updates on hot ticket items that were a heavy focus during the recent 2017 ILG National Conference in San Antonio, TX.
Mr. Dowd opened the session by providing statistics to reaffirm the agency’s commitment to quality over quantity as it pertains to compliance reviews. He explained that even though the total number of audits over the last fiscal cycle has significantly decreased, the amount of money received in back pay as a result of those audits was the highest in agency history.
Mr. Dowd mentioned that a goal for the OFCCP is to have transparency in the compliance evaluation process. He stated that over the last fiscal cycle, a staggering number of audits were not submitted on time. He did not speculate on the cause, but shared that about 85% of establishments audited did not provide the required materials within the 30 day window of receiving the audit letter.
In addition to the remarks on enforcement structure and statistics, he also took the opportunity to share some examples (below) of how the agency would like to help the federal contracting community with technical assistance.
- Two or three day compliance assistance training for federal contractors that, upon successful completion, would result in a formal certificate and a two year exemption period from audits
- Peer-to-peer technical assistance program
Finally, Mr. Dowd closed with the formal announcement that the OFCCP and EEOC will not merge during the 2018 fiscal cycle. He did not provide any additional details on the future of the merger beyond 2018.
Following the OFCCP updates, Jim Paretti provided updates on a number of topics ranging from EEOC structure to LGBT coverage.
Most notable in his session was the discussion surrounding component 2 of the EEO-1 reports. It was already announced that the requirement to submit pay data and hours worked had been rescinded; Mr. Paretti confirmed that the ball is now in the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) court pending their full review.
Under the Obama administration, protection against sex based discrimination in hiring and employment practices was extended to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. In July, the Trump administration declared that Title VII does not extend to protect workers against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the federal civil rights law does not protect transgender people from discrimination in the workplace. Several courts have reviewed the protections of workers against sex based discrimination, but rulings have been split on the matter of whether to include protections for workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity under the protections against sex based discrimination. At some point in the future, this issue could go to the Supreme Court for a decision.
It is apparent through this webinar and the Town Hall meetings by the OFCCP that the agency is trying to steer away from the direction of the Patricia Shiu era and instead, is aiming to build a transparent relationship with the federal contracting community. By participating in the continued presentations and involvement indicated by Mr. Dowd, Biddle will remain at the forefront in educating our clients and others within the federal contracting community of any updates and further development that may occur.
Contributing Author: Heather Sakamoto, EEO/AA Consultant I at Biddle Consulting Group, Inc.