‘Kinder, gentler’ OFCCP lays out three new initiatives in response to town hall sessions
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Thursday, May 3, 2018

‘Kinder, gentler’ OFCCP lays out three new initiatives in response to town hall sessions

After assessing input from numerous town halls and stakeholder meetings, the OFCCP said that it has developed an action plan to address three emerging themes: (1) trust; (2) communication; and (3) training. The agency said that its goal in focusing on these areas is “to create a noticeable difference in the quality, consistency, and availability of compliance assistance materials and training resources” and to “aim for bigger strides toward transparency” with its stakeholders.

Town hall action plan. Although the OFCCP has historically provided compliance assistance at both the national and regional levels, a Government Accounting Office (GAO) report, Strengthening Oversight Could Improve Federal Contract Nondiscrimination Compliance, published September 2016, recommended that the OFCCP review its compliance assistance efforts to identify options for enhancing contractors’ understanding of their nondiscrimination and affirmative action requirements. To ensure that the OFCCP considered contractors’ perspectives in addressing the GAO recommendations, the OFCCP conducted three Compliance Assistance Town Halls that were later followed by three stakeholder meetings.

While the three town halls were open to the public, the target audience was contractors’ HR managers, EEO and/or compliance officers, and other personnel responsible for overseeing contractors’ compliance with the OFCCP’s laws and regulations. Although the discussions primarily centered on two questions provided by a professional facilitator, participants provided feedback and insight on a number of compliance assistance and contractor engagement-related issues that resulted in the three general areas of focus: training, communication, and trust.

Based on this and other feedback, the OFCCP has developed an action plan that is consistent with its existing budgetary and human resources. The agency expects its action plan to respond to the three common themes identified in the town halls, as well as to contribute to the agency’s response to certain recommendations in the 2016 GAO report.

Three new initiatives. In consideration of the training, communication, and trust issues, the OFCCP’s action plan envisions achieving meaningful change by way of three initiatives:

1.

Review and enhance contractor compliance assistance materials;

2.

Assess and improve the quality of contractor and compliance officer training and education; and

3.

Increase transparency and communication with agency stakeholders.

Review and enhance contractor compliance assistance. The OFCCP said that as a result of changes in the law and rulemaking to update its existing regulations, the agency’s existing technical assistance guides (TAGs) became outdated. Although the OFCCP has removed them from its website to avoid confusion around compliance, the TAGs were not immediately replaced, and other compliance assistance was made available to contractors. To enhance the agency’s existing compliance assistance efforts, the OFCCP is creating three comprehensive technical guides to replace old and outdated contractor guidance:

  • Supply & Service Technical Assistance Guide
  • Construction Technical Assistance Guide
  • Academic Institutions Technical Assistance Guide

The OFCCP said that its goal in using these three guides is to provide a user–friendly product that will help the responsible personnel within a contractor’s organization implement their obligations under the laws that the OFCCP enforces.

Other actions that the agency intends to take beyond creating the TAGs include:

  • Redesigning the Mega Construction webpage and launching new tools;
  • Updating the New and Small Technical Assistance Guide;
  • Developing new infographics on the internet applicant definition, recordkeeping, and posting and notice requirements; and
  • Updating the OFCCP At A Glance brochure.

The OFCCP says it will also create a recognition program to recognize publicly one or more sound and successful EEO and nondiscrimination compliance programs. The selected contractor programs and initiatives will be highlighted by the OFCCP in various outreach and education materials, and in other ways as models for other contractors.

Quality of contractor and compliance officer training and education. Turning to the second of its new initiatives, the OFCCP said that the goal of the training provided by the national office is to inform compliance officers of national standards and policies that apply to conducting and resolving compliance evaluations and complaint investigations. Further, a competent and trained staff of compliance officers should be able to provide effective compliance assistance to contractors about their contractual obligations under Executive Order 11246, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act.

In order to improve the quality of contractor and compliance officer training and education, the OFCCP said that it will focus on improving the overall quality and credibility of its training program by:

  • Conducting an assessment of the current training program;
  • Determining and assessing the skills gap of existing training staff, with training to address those gaps, as appropriate;
  • Standardizing procedures for the development of training courses and issuing or updating agency guidance as required;
  • Adopting a competency model that clearly identifies the skills, knowledge and abilities that all compliance officers should possess; and
  • Creating and implementing a plan of action for seeking third-party accreditation for OFCCP’s national office training program.

The OFCCP said that improvements in how it identifies, develops, and delivers training will benefit contractors seeking compliance assistance because the quality of that assistance should improve. Contractors should also, over time, see an improvement in the quality and timeliness of the OFCCP’s compliance evaluations. Moreover, having a formal, standardized, and accredited training program will improve the quality of training that the OFCCP provides to contractors.

Increasing transparency and communication. As to the third new initiative, the OFCCP said that a common thread discussed during the town halls was the desire to have written expectations for compliance officers and contractors during compliance evaluations to ensure transparency and consistency in communication during compliance evaluations. These written expectations would enhance communications between contractors and the agency, improve the transparency in the OFCCP’s work, and begin to address trust issues. The OFCCP said that it will create a “roadmap” or written guide to the compliance evaluation process for contractors.

Predetermination notices. As part of the OFCCP’s ongoing efforts to achieve consistency across regional and district offices, increase transparency about preliminary findings with contractors, and encourage communication throughout the compliance evaluation process, the agency has instituted a uniform approach to the use of Predetermination Notices (PDN) in compliance evaluations where the agency believes discrimination findings may exist.

Going forward, the OFCCP will issue PDNs for preliminary individual and systemic discrimination findings identified during the course of compliance evaluations. The use of the PDN encourages communication with contractors and provides them an opportunity to respond to preliminary findings prior to the OFCCP deciding to issue a Notice of Violation (NOV). Regional discretion is no longer permitted, the OFCCP said, and the national office will review all PDNs to ensure appropriate consistency and uniformity.

Policy guidance. The OFCCP said it will also develop policy guidance for creating greater transparency around the identification of indicators of a violation, explaining the basis for a supplemental data request, and conducting a meaningful compensation self–assessment.

Written expectations. Further, in response to the desire for “written expectations,” the OFCCP said that it will develop a document entitled, “What Contractors Can Expect.” This “Bill of Rights”-styled document will outline certain OFCCP principles that contractors can expect to exist during an engagement with the agency. These principles include, but are not limited to, things such as timeliness, accuracy, communication, confidentiality, and professionalism.

Communities of practice. The OFCCP also plans to make greater use of technology and expand the options for contractors to reach out to the agency by using online Communities of Practice (COP) for contractors and other stakeholders. Within the contractor COP, contractors will be able to ask questions and share information and experiences with other contractors, as well as to interact with OFCCP online on discussion groups. A similar COP will be developed for other OFCCP stakeholders, the agency said.

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