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2018 NILG Conference Takeaways

This year’s 2018 National ILG Conference theme was “Navigating the Waves of Change” and it was an appropriate theme given many recent changes within the OFCCP as well as changes that federal contractors and the OFCCP are hopeful will occur.

Less than a week prior to the 2018 National ILG Conference, Ondray Harris stepped down from his role as the head of the OFCCP, leaving Acting Director Craig Leen to represent the OFCCP at the conference. AD Leen shared his thoughts on the current state of the OFCCP and addressed details of the agency’s plan for the future:

  1. Transparency: Changing the way federal contractors see the OFCCP by disclosing agency methodologies, providing opinion letters and possibly more FAQs, and developing meaningful conciliation agreements
  2. Certainty: Clarifying requirements, such as analysis of pay groups under Compensation Directive 307
  3. Efficiency: Reducing the number of aging cases and the length of time that passes between requests for information during compliance evaluations
  4. Recognition: Exploring re-establishing recognition awards

The federal contractor community was receptive to AD Leen’s plan and employers that have recently gone through an audit can attest that improvement is needed on the points that AD Leen addressed. But will we see change? And how quickly? Some of the initiatives that AD Leen touched on have been discussed by his predecessors with little visible change so far. Federal contractors cite many instances where local level OFCCP staff conduct their work inconsistently with national initiatives. While we give a nod to the ideas presented, we also understand that federal contractors are up against many challenges and will have to continue to navigate the changing OFCCP landscape.

In addition hearing from AD Leen, federal contractors came together at the National ILG Conference in Anaheim to hear from other divisions of the federal government, attorneys, consultants, and employers. Conference sessions focused on several recurring themes.

The following are the top ten takeaways for this year:

  1. Pay Equity
    • The topic is not going away anytime soon. With new laws emerging regularly at the state, municipal, and federal levels, this is going to be a continued point of focus for the OFCCP. Keep in mind that the OFCCP is the only federal agency that can gather compensation data absent a charge or lawsuit. It is important for federal contractors to analyze their compensation practices for possible discrimination at least annually, but also to address any disparities before a claim or audit.
  2. Pay Groups
    • Employers and the OFCCP frequently disagree on the best way to combine positions for pay equity analyses. Make sure your stakeholders can explain your pay groups, that documentation aligns, and that there is a reasonableness to the pay group structure. 
  3. Applicant Tracking
    • Applicant tracking has always been, and will continue to be, a major point of focus in OFCCP audits. When adverse impact is found and no documentation exists to prove why selection decisions were made, employers face a higher risk of having to compensate rejected applicants. Employers should ensure that everyone involved with the hiring process understands what the process is, knows their obligation to make non-discriminatory selection decisions, and dispositions applicants appropriately.
  4. Harassment Prevention
    • With the “me too” movement and the EEOC’s focus on sexual harassment claims, employers need to be ahead of any inappropriate behavior in the workplace. The EEOC’s view is that disrespectful behavior is the gateway to illegal behavior. Employers should be focused on creating a workplace climate that does not allow for disrespect. The EEOC encourages employers to implement recurring non-harassment training, develop clear policies, and promptly investigate complaints.
  5. Apprenticeship Programs
    • Low employment rates are highlighting labor shortages in skilled fields such as Registered Nursing, Physical Therapy, Data Science, and the traditional skilled trades. Employers should consider developing apprenticeship programs to attract the talent they need.
  6. Local Outreach Efforts
    • Federal contractors are not only required to conduct diversity outreach, they have to show that they are engaging in truly effective outreach efforts to attract females, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and protected veterans to the workforce. Often overlooked, employers should focus their outreach on the local community to show a commitment to meaningful diversity outreach.
  7. Self-Identification Campaigns
    • Many employers cite challenges getting applicants and employees with disabilities to self-identify as such. Many times employers know they have employees with disabilities, but those employees choose not to self-identify. Conference attendees had the opportunity to learn about some successful self-identification campaigns. Ideas included:
      1. Hearing from employees internally on a regular basis in a “this is me" campaign, bringing out employee-specific stories through videos, blogs, and events conveying “why I chose to self-ID”
      2. Having company representation at local activities and community events related to disability awareness
  8. Get the national OFCCP office involved when having difficulty with a district OFCCP office
    • Many federal contractors cringed at this suggestion, but attorneys and AD Leen agreed that the OFCCP cannot fix problems if the agency is not aware they exist. The OFCCP wants to have transparency and efficiency but needs the assistance of the federal contractor community to understand where there are gaps in the relationship between contractors and the agency.
  9. Denial of Access
    • Consistent with AD Leen’s commitment to transparency and efficiency, the OFCCP will continue holding federal contractors accountable for providing requested information, in the format requested. Failure to provide information to a compliance officer could result in a Show Cause Notice and initiate enforcement proceedings.
  10. Certification Programs
    • Will certifications or award programs materialize in the future? If so, what will the programs and requirements look like? As the OFCCP navigates through these questions and offers opportunities to provide input, it is important for federal contractors to voice their ideas and concerns.

AD Leen left conference attendees with the understanding that he will be conducting a webinar with OFCCP field officers to reiterate the messages he delivered at the conference. Hopefully we will see changes in the next few years where the OFCCP-federal contractor relationship becomes one of transparency, certainty, and efficiency, and allows for a culture of reward for federal contractors making the good faith efforts that the OFCCP is asking to see.

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