Opening Statement: OFCCP Acting Director Thomas Dowd
“Timely, accurate, and work to understand it”
These are the words from the OFCCP Acting Director Thomas Dowd on the opening day of the 2017 National Industry Liaison Group’s (NILG) Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Mr. Dowd emphasized that the best way to get a notice of compliance letter is for contractors to submit their data timely, accurately, and help the OFCCP to understand it.
As the smallest agency within the DOL currently – only 563 full time employees – Thomas admitted that not all 200,000+ contractor establishments could be audited. The difference between the number of contractors and OFCCP’s workforce is just too great. He then reaffirmed that roughly 98% of contractors are in compliance.
Highlights of Thomas Dowd’s vision for the OFCCP:
- Given the number of their current employees, the OFCCP will continue to strive to be efficient
- OFCCP and the federal contracting community need to find a way to be transparent and have better communication.
- One step taken towards this goal was to invite all Regional Directors to attend this year’s NILG Conference.
- A commitment was also made for the OFCCP to be present at future NILG Conferences. This will allow the OFCCP to hear ideas, comments, and/or concerns directly from the contracting community.
- Establish an OFCCP training program where contractors could participate, pass, and obtain a certificate to avoid audits for 2-3 years.
- Bring back public acknowledgement or award contractors who have great resources, outreach and recruitment, and commitment (reminiscent of the EVE Award).
- Large organizations that receive multiple audits each year could voluntarily work with OFCCP to have a random company-wide evaluation. If found compliant, the organization would not be audited for 2-3 years.
As he concluded, Acting Director Dowd urged contractors to seek assistance from the OFCCP when needed. He also clarified that audits are based on a neutral, random selection process and that asking for help will not cause an audit. As for the possible merger of the OFCCP with EEOC, Mr. Dowd provided no comment other than the OFCCP has no say in the decision.
Keynote Address: Acting Chair EEOC Victoria Lipnic
With all the hype and concerns regarding the new EEO-1 revision, Acting Chair of the EEOC, Victoria Lipnic, provided some insight as to where the report stands while touching on other topics she highly values.
Highlights of Victoria Lipnic’s EEOC address:
- The EEOC’s emphasis is on equal opportunity, looking at job availability and if barriers exist affecting any protected groups.
- With 6.5 million jobs advertised and filled this past year, the EEOC is very interested in identifying these jobs and where they were filled.
- EEOC will be focusing on outreach and recruitment efforts, an area which has not been fully highlighted in the past.
- Harassment in the workplace is still an ongoing issue, and all efforts are needed by organizations to prevent harassment. Correcting this starts with modifying trainings to ensure their effectiveness and setting a good culture in the workplace.
- For the new EEO-1 revision (a.k.a. “Component 2”), a voting body is needed to undo or change.
- The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) are the two agencies that can make this happen.
- A letter has been sent to the new head of OIRA, recently filled, to obtain a response whether or not Component 2 will be rescinded.
- Time is of the essence and a decision by the end of August is a must; this will determine if the EEOC and contractors need to invest money into updating their databases and systems to collect/report on the new Component 2.
Closing Session: OFCCP Panel
The 2017 NILG Committee graciously provided OFCCP with the closing words of the conference. A panel of Agency personnel presented their observations, takeaways, and feedback following three days of rubbing elbows with conference attendees. While proof of Agency change remains in the proverbial pudding, their statements provide insight into how OFCCP is positioning itself.
- Acting Director Dowd:
- Echoed his well-received vision of an Agency that works alongside Federal contractors rather than primarily finding fault with them
- Thanked NILG attendees for being “the good guys,” a marked contrast in tone for the OFCCP as of late
- Regarding the complexity of compensation assessments in audits, he stated that the Agency would like to move forward with as much transparency as possible.
- Debra Carr, Director of Policy, Planning, and Program Development:
- Asserted that more dialogue is needed between the OFCCP and Federal contractors. She noted the need for the Agency to understand individual contractors during audits.
- Admitted to not understanding how pervasive distrust in the Federal Contractor community has been toward OFCCP.
- During the conference she heard that compliance assistance needs to be practical, useful, available in plain language, and actually implemented.
- Melissa Speer, representing the Regional Directors:
- Mentioned the often repeated mantra that ‘Federal Contractors should not be afraid to ask OFCCP for help; you won’t be audited because of questions.’
- In response to complaints that Compliance Officers are taking months to respond during audits, Ms. Speer encouraged contractors to reach out to the District Director and even the Regional Office.
- Acknowledged the lack of trust in the Agency and a desire to change that
- Associate Solicitor Beverly Dankowitz:
- Stated a desire to have a representative from the Solicitor’s Office at the NILG each year
- Repeated the need for more transparency, collaboration, and trust, and promised to share her conference notes with her colleagues
- Drew attention to the fact that only about ten (10) cases are filed each year against Federal Contractors.
- Maintained that her Office will continue enforcement proceedings when the preferred conciliation process breaks down
Contributing Authors: Marife Ramos, PHR, SHRM-CP and Jeff Davies, M.A.