WASHINGTON, D.C. | December 4, 2013 -
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is charged with enforcing the affirmative action and nondiscrimination employment requirements governing federal contractors. It is a tremendous responsibility that affects more than 20,000 businesses and roughly one out of every five American workers. Any government agency with this much influence should exercise its authority judiciously, especially at a time when so many cannot find work. I hope my colleagues will keep this in mind as we examine two regulations adopted by OFCCP in September.
Last year a number of witnesses shared their concerns about the proposed regulations with the committee. They described how the rules would add an unprecedented amount of new paperwork on top of existing reams of reporting requirements. The regulations would also set arbitrary hiring “goals” for certain classes of workers, but the agency has the power to revoke a contract if employers fail to meet these so-called goals. In addition, witnesses discussed the fact that the agency is essentially requiring workers to disclose a disability before they’ve been offered employment, even though the Americans with Disabilities Act clearly prohibits this type of invasive inquiry.
Unfortunately, OFCCP failed to address these and other concerns in the final regulations. Today’s witnesses will discuss in greater detail why the regulations remain problematic and how they will impact the nation’s workplaces. I also hope to discuss why workers and job creators deserve a completely new regulatory approach.
Dana Bottenfield, a witness at a previous hearing, accurately described the problems that exist in the current process. As a human resources professional for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dana characterized the current structure as “all stick and no carrot.” Dana explained existing rules “impose a level of expense of time and money that is far in excess of what is necessary to accomplish effective affirmative action.” She concluded her testimony by saying, “Our team is not focused on providing a fair and diverse workplace, but instead surviving our next audit.”
No doubt the experience of St. Jude is similar to the vast majority of federal contractors: They want to follow the rules and do the right thing, but too often they are tied up in unnecessary investigations or tripped up by excessive red tape.
Director Shiu, we should be working together to find ways to streamline this regulatory mess; we should be discussing solutions that would make it easier for employers to follow the law and easier to identify those who don’t; we should be developing enforcement policies that promote the best interests of workers and the best use of taxpayer dollars.
Regretably, the Obama administration has pursued a different agenda. Instead of simplifying the process, the administration creates more confusion and uncertainty. Instead of working together, the department refuses to provide adequate responses to our most basic oversight requests. Delivering documents weeks late, on the eve of a national holiday, and days before an oversight hearing that are ultimately nonresponsive is an insult to this committee and its oversight responsibilities.
Finally, instead of smart enforcement practices, the administration is doing less with more. Since 2009 OFCCP has received a 30 percent funding increase and hired roughly 29 percent more staff. Yet compared to the prior administration, OFCCP is conducting fewer compliance evaluations and fewer audits. Even more striking are the outcomes. Between 2004 and 2008, the Bush administration recovered more than $250 million in financial remedies. However, the Obama administration has collected a total of just $57 million.
In the face of all these challenges, OFCCP wants to expand its reach through regulatory fiat. Health care providers now fear they will be forced to inherit OFCCP’s regulatory burden because they serve some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. I have introduced legislation, H.R 3633, that will ensure hospitals and doctors reimbursed through federal health care programs are not unilaterally designated contractors and subject to OFCCP’s dictates. I hope my colleagues will oppose this bureaucratic overreach by supporting the Protecting Health Care Providers from Increased Administrative Burdens Act.
Federal contractors have a moral and legal obligation to ensure employment discrimination is not tolerated in their workplaces. OFCCP has an obligation as well, to enforce the law fairly and effectively. Unfortunately, more regulations, more spending, more staff, and fewer results have become the agency’s track record. The men and women who rely on OFCCP to enforce these critical policies deserve better. For their sake, I strongly urge the administration to change course.
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