The 2019 ILG National Conference being held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has officially begun.
OFCCP Director Craig Leen opened the conference with an energized keynote addressed that touched on the agency’s work on behalf of individuals with disabilities and veterans, as well as OFCCP’s continued action in furtherance of the four “bedrock” principles announced at last years’ ILG National conference.
Director Leen opened his remarks by suggesting if conference goers remember one thing about his speech they should remember
it is time in this country to treat individuals with disabilities the same.
From that opening sentiment Director Leen explained OFCCP’s continued commitment to individuals with disabilities through Focused Reviews is because
the numbers cry out for action.
The numbers to which he referred are the low hiring rates and wide pay gap for disabled individuals, as well as the relatively low average cost of accommodations. Director Leen described the disabled community as a
tremendous untapped resource that can help the country succeed.
In addition to discussing the agency’s use of focused reviews to “make a significant positive impact” for individuals with disabilities, Director Leen also shared with conference attendees the agency’s developing plans for VEVRAA Focused Reviews. Specifically, Director Leen shared that the agency is hoping to publish a listed of veteran specific focused reviews around Veteran’s Day, which occurs in early November.
Director Leen then transitioned to his “hypothesis” that
a lot of compensation issues [the agency] is finding are promotion issues in disguise.
As a result, he believes OFCCP should be looking a promotions, specifically the intersection of race and gender and disability status and other statuses. In his words, the agency needs to look into promotions because
it is not about equality of outcome, but equality of opportunity.
Director Leen’s keynote address was followed in the afternoon by an informative breakout session in which OFCCP leadership provided additional insights into the Agency’s approach to Section 503 Focused Reviews. The team, which was comprised of members of the national office, the Solicitor of Labor’s office and regional leadership, provided information about the agency’s expectations for focused reviews and spent a good deal of time answering questions from the audience. An important take away is contractors scheduled for Section 503 Focused Reviews will receive an On-Site plan prior to their mandatory on-site review, as well as an “What to Expect” Guide, in addition to the guidance available on the Section 503 landing page.
Following his discussion of Focused Reviews, Director Leen went on to share the agency’s current progress on the four principles – Transparency, Efficiency, Certainty and Recognition.
He previewed that OFCCP would be imminently releasing a new Opinion Letter (on FCC contracts giving rise to OFCCP jurisdiction) as well as new FAQs regarding Functional Affirmative Action Plans (FAAPs).
With respect to Transparency, Director Leen reiterated his position that the field should be sharing reasons for an information request when the request for information is made. He acknowledged however that
it takes a while to steer the boat.
He also shared that OFCCP is looking at a program that would allow non-violating, top-performing companies, to enter into an Early Resolution Program (ERP) agreement with the agency.
Director Leen also addressed the Agency’s “internalization” of the Analogic compensation decision. He shared he believed OFCCP’s approach is consistent with the case’s holdings by looking at a company’s established pay programs, prioritizing cases that have both statistical and anecdotal evidence, and trying to identify the actual policy or practice causing the disparity.
Reiterating comments he’s made in the past, Director Leen discussed the rescission of the Active Case Enforcement Directive in favor of OFCCP’s current enforcement Directive which marries Active Case Management with Active Case Enforcement principles. Specifically, Director Leen stated
The evidence doesn’t support the hypothesis that if you spend more time you find more discrimination.
Instead, OFCCP is trying to spend less time so they can “touch” more contractors.
Moving down the list of principles, Director Leen acknowledge the Certainty principle ties in with the Transparency principle – noting the agency is trying to provide guidance so contractors have certainty about their obligations under the law noting examples such as FAQs, Opinion Letters, and Technical Assistance. He also shared that the agency hopes to “very soon” launch its Online HelpDesk so everyone has access to answers to questions so “everyone is treated the same.”
Touching on the final principal, Director Leen encouraged organizations to apply for the Excellence in Disability Inclusion Award, noting it is awarded on an establishment (not contractor) basis. He also shared the Agency is working on a way to close audits “with distinction” to reward contractors who are not only in compliance, but who are excelling in their compliance.
Director Leen ended his remarks where he began – inclusion of individuals with disabilities. He shared that he hoped contractors “take to heart” what the agency is saying about Section 503 compliance and looking at inclusion within their organizations.