Is Your Firm Meeting the Department of Labor’s Equal Employment and Affirmative Action Requirements?

Author: Michael J. Kaufmann

The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) recently released a new and much-anticipated Technical Assistance Guide to help construction contractors and subcontractors with federal contracts comply with equal employment laws.

The Guide (which can be found here) provides a summary of the federal government’s equal employment and affirmative action requirements for contractors, recommendations for how to meet those requirements, and an overview of the compliance-check process, among other information.

It is important to be aware of your firm’s equal employment obligations when bidding and working on federal contracts and federally-assisted projects—such as the federal courthouse project in Des Moines and the flood protection system being constructed in Cedar Rapids. OFCCP ensures compliance with three equal employment and affirmative action laws: Executive Order 11246 (“EO 11246”), Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 503”), and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (“VEVRAA”).

Each law applies to contractors and subcontractors with contracts that meet certain qualifications, including: (1) federal contracts or federally-assisted contracts over $10,000 or government business over $10,000 in a year (EO 11246); (2) federal contracts over $15,000 (Section 503); and federal contracts over $150,000 (VEVRAA).

Executive Order 11246 (“EO 11246”)

  • EO 11246 applies to federal contractors and subcontracts, and federally-assisted construction contractors and subcontractors, who hold federal government contracts in excess of $10,000 or who do over $10,000 in government business in one year.
  • EO 11246 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin. Prohibited employment discrimination includes harassment relating to a protected characteristic, such as sexual harassment.
  • EO 11246 also requires covered contractors to take affirmative action to ensure that equal opportunity is provided in all aspects of employment. It further prohibits covered contractors from, in certain circumstances, taking adverse actions against employees or applicants for asking about, discussing, or sharing information regarding their pay or their coworkers’ pay.

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 503”)

  • Section 503 applies to federal contractors and subcontractors with federal contracts in excess of $15,000.
  • Section 503 prohibits employment discrimination against individuals due to physical or mental disabilities, and requires that contractors and subcontractors take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these individuals.

Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (“VEVRAA”)

  • VEVRAA applies to federal contractors and subcontractors with federal contracts of $150,000 or more.
  • VEVRAA prohibits employment discrimination against protected veterans, and requires covered contractors and subcontracts take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these veterans.

OFCCP enforces these laws through compliance evaluations. A compliance evaluation may include a comprehensive compliance review of the contractor’s hiring and employment practices, an off-site review of records, a compliance check to determine whether the contractor has maintained the required records, or a focused review on one or more aspects of the contractor’s organization or employment practices. Depending on the scope of the review, participation in a compliance evaluation can be an expensive and time-intensive process.

Additional information on the new Guide and equal employment laws applicable to federal contractors can be found on the OFCCP's website.

Questions relating to this article can be directed to the lawyers in our labor and employment law practice group.

*Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact an attorney with specific questions.

About the Author:

Michael Kaufmann Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman PLC

Michael J. Kaufmann
(319) 896-4021

Michael Kaufmann is a litigation attorney with a general practice encompassing business and commercial litigationconstruction and designinsurance defense, and labor and employment litigation. Mr. Kaufmann also serves on the Construction Law Section Council of the Iowa State Bar Association.

Mr. Kaufmann recently joined the Government Affairs Committee of the Master Builders of Iowa. The Government Affairs Committee is in charge of setting the policy for and giving direction to the lobbying efforts of MBI, the premier construction industry association in Iowa. Committee members stay abreast of legislative issues facing the construction industry and work with legislators to promote the industry’s interests. The Committee also directs the organization’s Political Action Committee fund, MBI-PAC.

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