Trump Announces R. Alexander Acosta as Replacement Labor Secretary Nominee

Wasting no time to identify a replacement following Andrew Puzder’s withdrawal from consideration for Secretary of Labor, President Trump announced today that he has tapped R. Alexander Acosta for the role.  Acosta, who is the only Hispanic nominee in Trump’s cabinet, is a former U.S. Attorney and at one-time sat on the National Labor Relations Board.  While nothing is guaranteed, it would seem, unlike Puzder’s, Acosta’s confirmation should be met with widespread support.   However, as we find ourselves saying on an almost daily basis these days, stay tuned for future developments.

Andrew Puzder Withdraws as Secretary of Labor Nominee

Andrew Puzder has withdrawn from consideration as Secretary of Labor.  As we previously reported, Puzder’s confirmation hearing, scheduled for tomorrow, had been postponed multiple times amid increasing scrutiny surrounding his corporate and personal business dealings. His withdrawal came today amid reports that support among Republican Senators was faltering.

A replacement nominee has not yet been named but we will provide an update as soon as one is available.  Stay tuned.

Confirmation Hearing back on for Secretary Of Labor Nominee Puzder

After multiple delays, the confirmation hearing for President Trump’s Secretary of Labor nominee Andrew Puzder has been reportedly reset for February 16.

Puzder’s nomination has drawn heavy criticism and, when the hearing actually moves forward, he will most certainly face pointed questions regarding his business dealings, employment practices and positions on laws and regulations impacting employers and employees.

 

OFCCP – Here to Stay or Not? Signs Indicate OFCCP Will Survive

With the transition to a new presidential administration well under way, everyone is looking for signs to help predict the future.  Given President Trump’s sweeping executive action, including entering an Executive Order requiring the identification of two regulations to be eliminated for every new regulation proposed, the question of whether the make-up of the federal agencies as we know it will survive a new administration and cabinet.  Of particular importance to government contractors is the question of whether a Trump Administration suggests the end of OFCCP.  The question has been asked privately and in the media – might OFCCP be eliminated as redundant and unnecessary?

One recent event suggests otherwise. This week, the White House announced President Trump’s decision to leave intact President Obama’s landmark LGBT executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The President’s move suggests the Administration does, indeed, value the anti-discrimination protections and affirmative action principles of Executive Order 11246, as well as Section 503 and VEVRAA. Far from suggesting a demise of the long-standing Executive Order 11246 – the centerpiece of OFCCP’s existence – the President’s move suggests he stands by a historic expansion of protections, with one caveat.  President Trump has also said he will sign, if passed by Congress, the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which could carve out a large exception to the protections of the LGBT Order.

The new Administration may further curtail OFCCP’s budget, as well as scale-back compliance and audit burdens. We believe the eventual DOL Secretary  (which may be some time coming given the repeated and now indefinite confirmation delay) and OFCCP Director will follow the President’s lead to forego new regulations and, perhaps, rollback some aspects of existing regulations. A reprieve that likely will be welcomed by many in the contractor community .

However, while the landscape for federal contractors may  certainly change under the current administration, the elimination of OFCCP would leave a noticeable void given its vital function to advance not only equal employment opportunity but also foster affirmative action for women, minorities, veterans and the disabled, a role not duplicated by EEOC or any other federal agency.

Disability Self-ID form approved for another 3 years

As some of you may have noticed, the current OMB approval for the required disability self-identification form expired January 31, 2017.  On the eve of its expiration, OMB approved the form for another three years – until  January 31, 2020.

An updated version of the form (in multiple languages) can be found here.  According to OFCCP’s website, employers can either download the new form, or update their existing electronic version of the form the reflect the new expiration date.

President Trump Preserves LGBT Executive Order

The New York Times reported this week President Trump will preserve intact President Obama’s LGBT order (Executive Order 13672) protecting applicants and employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  As published by the Times, a White House statement provides:

President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of L.G.B.T.Q. rights, just as he was throughout the election… The president is proud to have been the first ever G.O.P. nominee to mention the L.G.B.T.Q. community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.

The LGBT Order amended Executive Order 11246, signed by President Johnson in 1965, but beyond its centerpiece anti-discrimination provisions does not require affirmative action from federal contractors. For example, the LGBT Order and regulations impose no outreach, data collection or analysis obligations.  Federal contactors must only include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in extended EEO taglines, but may continue to use an abbreviated tagline without such references.  Contractors must also post an OFCCP-supplement to the “EEO is the Law” poster, until the poster is updated.

By the time the Order was signed in July 2014, many contractors had already implemented EEO policies protecting gender identity and sexual orientation and many contractors have since enshrined these protections in their EEO Policy Statements and handbooks, going beyond the requirements of the LGBT Order.

President Trump’s decision on this Order is not, however, likely to be the last word on the topic. During the campaign, the candidate stated he would support the controversial First Amendment Defense Act (FADA).  If passed and signed by the President, FADA would essentially prevent the federal government from taking adverse action against people, businesses or institutions which discriminate based on sexual orientation according to a belief that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”

We will provide an update if and when FADA is reintroduced in Congress.

Victoria Lipnic Appointed as Acting EEOC Chair

Continuing the fervor of activity that has filled his first days in office, President Trump has appointed Victoria Lipnic as Acting Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Commission Lipnic has served on the Commission since being appointed in 2010 by President Obama.  Her current term is set to run through June 2020.

The press release announcing her appointment reports that prior to her role as a Commissioner, Lipnic served as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment Standards where she oversaw divisions that “revised regulations on overtime, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and issued the first-ever regulations for OFCCP to evaluate compensation discrimination.”

Recently, Commission Lipnic expressed concern with the Commission’s pay data collection changes to the EEO-1 report.  Employer interest in the future of the EEO-1 pay data reporting tool under President Trump is high, and Commissioner Lipic’s appointment as the Acting Chair may give insight into what the future holds for the report; however, nothing definitive has been reported so must continue to wait and see what official action is taken.  Stay tuned . . .

 

Federal Contractors Not the Only Ones with Disability Goals

Federal agencies soon will be required to engage in affirmative outreach for individuals with disabilities. The final rule issued by EEOC on December 30, 2016, will require federal agencies to take steps to increase the number of its employees that are individuals with disabilities beginning in January 2018.

This is similar to the affirmative action obligations in the revised Section 503 regulations that went into effect for federal contractors in March 2014.

As a reminder, under the disability regulations contractors are required to aspire to meet an annual 7% utilization goal (per job group) for individuals with disabilities. There is a separate veteran hiring benchmark obligation (currently set at 6.9%). While meeting the goals and benchmark are “aspirational” contractors are required to develop action oriented programs aimed at addressing underutilization and missed benchmarks.  In connection with this, contractors are required, on an annual basis, to “assess the effectiveness” of each of their outreach efforts.

In addition to the relevantly recent veteran and individuals with disabilities affirmative action requirements, contractors also have good faith outreach effort obligations for minorities and females in areas of underutilization. Where underutilized, employers must likewise create an action oriented program designed to address the underutilizations – which primarily includes developing meaningful relationships with local recruitment organizations.

While many things may change under a Trump administration, it is likely OFCCP’s emphasis on, and enforcement of, good faith outreach efforts will not. As a result, contractors need to make sure they are taking appropriate actions to build compliant and effective outreach programs.

Will OFCCP bring back Courtesy Scheduling Announcement Letters in 2017?

Happy New Year!

As we ring in 2017 and prepare for affirmative action and OFCCP compliance in a Trump administration, many contractors are wondering whether 2017 will bring an OFCCP audit their way.

Some may remember in years past around this time OFCCP would send out Courtesy Scheduling Announcement Letters (CSALs) providing advance notification to contractors of upcoming audits.  The list of contractors with establishments to be audited is generated every fiscal year out of the Agency’s national office in Washington D.C. based on an administratively neutral selection criteria.  Previously, after the list was generated, OFCCP would voluntarily issue CSALs to notify contractors that one or more of their facilities had been selected to be audited at some point during the agency’s fiscal year (October 1 – September 31).    Its actually been quite some time, however, since OFCCP provided employers with this advance notice with the last round going out in 2014.

In the past, not all CSALs resulted in an actual audit but, it was a good indication that a facility would be audited at some point.  In fact, since the 2014 CSALs, OFCCP has continued to conduct audits of those identified in the 2014 CSALs, long after the conclusion of the 2014-15 fiscal year.  The list however, was not dispositive as recent years have seen OFCCP conduct audits for which it issued no CSAL. 

We do not know whether OFCCP will again choose to issue CSALs in the future, possibly once a new Director is in place, but in response to our inquiry on the topic to the National Office, it appears, for the time being, the Agency will maintain the status quo and not issue CSALs.

As a result, as contractors prepare to turn over their calendar year affirmative action plans, as well as those who have recently updated or will be soon updating their AAP, its imperative to ensure you are prepared for an OFCCP audit, including the compensation elements of Item 19 and the veterans and individuals with disability requirements set forth in the Scheduling Letter.

 

Who will be the new head of OFCCP in the Trump Administration?

Who will lead the OFCCP under a new Trump administration?  The short is answer is we still don’t know. 

As we previously reported, OFCCP Director Pat Shiu left the Agency in the days following the election.  Deputy Director, Tom Dowd, a seasoned OFCCP official, has now taken the reins as the “Interim Acting Director” and will remain in place until a new leader is announced by the incoming administration.  Shortly before Director Shiu announced her departure, she obtained approval for the creation of a new leadership position within OFCCP – Director of Enforcement.  This position, which was given to Marika Litras, a senior OFCCP official, was created to “help the agency remain steadfast in carrying out its enforcement mission.”  Dr. Litras was previously the Director of the Division of Program Operations (DPO) for OFCCP.

 In the past, the new Secretary of Labor has provided input on the selection of Department directors, including OFCCP.  Present-elect Trump recently announced Andy Puzder, a pro-employer businessman, as his nominee for Secretary of Labor.  Puzder’s impact on OFCCP remains to be seen, however, his selection is certainly being touted as a “good thing” for employers in terms of reversing the recent trend of increased regulation on contractors.  Even now that Present-elect Trump has identified Puzder to head up the Department of Labor we will still have to wait to see who gets the nod to head up OFCCP.  As always, stay tuned for future developments.

 

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