A recent complaint filed by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs illustrates that it’s not only federal contractors who need to be sure they comply with affirmative action requirements, but also those who contract with the federal contractors – a.k.a. “subcontractors.”

The OFCCP’s allegations against Maryland construction subcontractor Potomac Abatement are awful. (Here is a copy of the complaint; Potomac denies the allegations.) The agency says that Potomac paid its Hispanic workers a lower average hourly wage than similarly skilled African-American employees, that it assigned Hispanic employees disproportionately to lower-paying, unskilled tasks, that Hispanic employees were harassed and that female Hispanic employees were sexually harassed, and that Hispanic employees were denied water breaks. According to the complaint, Hispanic workers who complained about the working conditions were sent home without pay or had their schedules reduced.

The complaint alleges that Potomac mistreated African-American employees as well. According to the OFCCP, Potomac laid off all of its African-American employees because of their race. Specifically, the complaint says that after some contract work in the District of Columbia was completed, Potomac reassigned its Hispanic employees but terminated 17 African-American employees and said that no further assignments were available.

As if this weren’t enough, the Agency also alleges that Potomac failed to recruit qualified minority candidates, women, protected veterans and individuals with disabilities. During the review period of 2011-12, the Agency concluded that Potomac “failed to undertake appropriate outreach and positive recruitment activities that were reasonably designed to effectively recruit” protected veterans or qualified individuals with disabilities. The complaint notes that Potomac also failed to develop on-the-job training programs or otherwise identify female and minority employees for promotional opportunities.

In recent years, the OFCCP has turned its attention toward outreach and recruitment efforts by federal contractors and subcontractors to ensure that their doors are open to women, minorities, qualified individuals with disabilities, and protected veterans.

As already noted, Potomac denies the OFCCP’s allegations and intends to cooperate fully in the administrative complaint process.

This complaint is a reminder to federal subcontractors that the OFCCP will seek to enforce its regulations not just against prime contractors, but also against those who do business with the prime contractors. Federal contractors and subcontractors should take time to ensure that their outreach efforts are effective, that jobs are listed with the appropriate state agency, and that affirmative action and equal opportunity policies are not just in the books but “being lived” on a daily basis.