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Policy Update: The OFCCP

Federal contractors, companies that provide goods and services to the federal government, must meet certain non-discrimination, affirmative action, and equal employment opportunity requirements to do business with the federal government.  To ensure federal contractors are meeting their obligations, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DoL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) conducts compliance reviews.

Over the last several years, I have met with federal contractors across the country, including in Arkansas, about the challenges they face in dealing with the OFCCP.  Among other things, they report a drawn out compliance review process, short deadlines to respond to requests for information, and gaps in communication from the OFCCP.  They also brought to my attention the OFCCP’s practice of reaching legal conclusions and issuing notices of violation without giving contractors a chance to present evidence to counter the OFCCP’s findings.   

Earlier this year, I questioned Secretary of Labor Tom Perez about the OFCCP’s practices when he testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.  Shortly thereafter, I met with OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu and her staff to discuss my concerns and to share specific examples of the problems that were brought to my attention.  In the meeting, I asked Director Shiu to make changes to the compliance review process to make it more efficient and effective. 

Following our meeting, I sent a letter to Director Shiu to outline my recommendations.  In it, I asked the OFCCP to track the length of every compliance review and use the information to improve the process and reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a review.  I also asked the OFCCP keep a record of every request for information that details the nature of the request, including the amount of time the OFCCP gives a contractor to respond.  I encouraged the OFCCP to establish a policy for maintaining communication with contractors throughout the compliance review process and recommended that the OFCCP share its preliminary findings with contractors and give them an opportunity to present evidence before reaching legal conclusions and issuing notices of violations.  Finally, I suggested that the OFCCP reinstitute an ombudsman, an independent party within the agency to receive and investigate complaints and to work with the OFCCP to resolve them.

As I told Director Shiu, it’s my hope we can work together to address these issues.  At the same time, I want to see results.  I recognize that, from time to time, there will be friction between the OFCCP and contractors.  However, if the goal is compliance, as the OFCCP says it is, then the agency should work with – not against – contractors to ensure they are complying with the law.  And if they aren’t, the OFCCP should provide the necessary assistance to contractors to help them achieve compliance.   

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