WASHINGTON, D.C. | April 18, 2012
Roughly one out of every five workers is currently employed by a federal contractor, providing services ranging from construction and IT management to the acquisition of office supplies. Drawing from the experience and expertise of the private-sector workforce helps ensure federal projects are carried out more efficiently and at the most competitive price for taxpayers. Like all employers, federal contractors have a responsibility to ensure equal employment opportunities for workers and job applicants.
Discrimination of any kind is abhorrent. An individual’s race, gender, religion, disability, or military service should never preempt a qualified worker from employment. In fact, federal policies prohibit employment discrimination and require employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, and advance qualified individuals in targeted populations.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is responsible for ensuring government contractors meet these responsibilities. Employers are required to maintain a written plan detailing efforts to identify and remove employment barriers. For women and minorities, employers must also complete an extensive analysis of the workplace that includes a description of all job classifications, the number of women and minorities placed in these job classifications, and the steps an employer will take to remedy situations when they are not appropriately represented.
These requirements extend to subcontractors and cover every employee in an employer’s workforce, regardless of whether their job is related to the government contract. Recognizing the scope and complexity of these requirements, its critical regulatory and enforcement actions promote the rights of workers without adversely affecting an employer’s ability to run his or her business. While extensive, current policies have been largely successful in this endeavor. Individuals are protected and employers are aware of their legal responsibilities.
However, the Obama administration is advancing numerous regulations that significantly alter long-standing nondiscrimination practices and create new waves of uncertainty for workers and business owners. For example, OFCCP now wants federal contractors to document each step of the hiring process for veterans and individuals with disabilities, as well as submit a written “statement of reasons” documenting why an individual was not extended an offer of employment. This unprecedented regulatory scheme would bury employers in paperwork, diverting resources away from job creation to manage administrative burdens.
Additionally, OFCCP is in the process of implementing for the first time an arbitrary hiring quota for individuals with disabilities. Supporters have characterized this as merely a hiring “goal,” but when a goal is enforced by a federal agency, make no mistake, it carries the weight of a mandate. This proposed regulation would also force job applicants to disclose whether they are disabled, despite existing protections prohibiting an employer from soliciting such personal information.
Finally, the agency is expanding its jurisdiction to those who provide health care services to military personnel and veterans through the federal health care program, TRICARE. The Department of Defense said it would it would be impossible to offer affordable health care to military families if onerous federal contracting rules were applied to TRICARE providers. Despite this warning and congressional action, OFCCP continues to move forward with its bureaucratic overreach. The agency has also extended its authority to providers of dental, vision, hearing, and prescription drug services to seniors under Medicare.
The challenges facing our nation’s employers and workers in the wake of the recession are numerous, and one of the greatest hazards to our economic recovery is heavy-handed regulation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported this week that 52 percent of small business owners believe regulations pose the greatest threat to their success.
This timely survey underscores the toughest challenge facing the American workforce: A persistently weak economy and lack of jobs. African-Americans, individuals with disabilities, and women are all experiencing higher levels of unemployment today than they were three years ago. And while the job prospects for veterans have modestly improved, roughly one in 10 veterans are still searching for work. The nation’s unemployed don’t need more regulation; they need more jobs.
Now more than ever we need to support smart policies that protect workers and promote private-sector job growth. And during this time of record deficits and debt, we need employers with skilled workers competing for government contracts so we can provide the best value to taxpayers. The question before us today is whether the regulatory and enforcement policies of today’s OFCCP are moving our nation in the right direction.