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The OFCCP Will Soon Enforce Annual Affirmative Action Plan Verification—Are You Ready?

Have you been paying attention to the latest murmurs out of the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)? If you’re a talent acquisition or HR professional of a Federal contractor, you’ll want to pay attention to a recent directive—because if you’re not prepared for it, it could cost your company dearly.

What is the OFCCP?

It’s a government body that exists to ensure all Federal contractors adhere to nondiscriminatory hiring practices, including implementing and following an Affirmative Action Plan (AAP). If your company’s AAP has ever been audited, that was by the OFCCP.

The Problem?

Trouble is, the OFCCP recently realized that when it’s not looking, some companies aren’t being compliant, whether through ignorance or willful neglect. When the agency asks to see the Affirmative Action Plan for companies under audit most take more than 30 days to comply. Just enough time to hastily draft one – what the OFCCP calls “free riders”.

Worse, the OFCCP acknowledges that “free riders” have a “small likelihood of discovery,” undermining the whole process.

And thus, the Affirmative Action Program Verification Initiative (Directive 2018-07) was born in August of this year—designed to let employers know that they will be developing a program that will provide yearly certification to ensure that AAP requirements are being met.

In 2017 alone, under the old system, the OFCCP investigated just 66 cases of suspected non-compliance—resulting in over $23 million in settlement costs. With more verification checks and every single contractor in the auditor’s line of fire, that number will skyrocket after the new regulations are enforced. And the potential damage to the company’s reputation if viewed as a discriminatory employer? Astronomical.

Here’s how you can get ready and ensure your compliance is never in question—while creating a fair and consistent evaluation process that helps find the best person for each job.

“You talkin’ to me?” Who’s affected by this directive?

Right off the bat, let’s clear one thing up. If you’re saying, “well, we’re not a government contractor, so this isn’t relevant to us”—please double-check. You’d be amazed how many employees don’t realize their organization holds a Federal contract or two. Do you think every AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, or Rolls-Royce employee knows their company is a government contractor and therefore subject to AAP requirements? Probably not—but they are.

And this encompasses small firms as well as big ones. So many, in fact, that even the Congressional Budget Office has lost count.

Even if you don’t fall under the OFCCP umbrella, there are valuable techniques to be learned from the shift in OFCCP regulations and practices, ensuring fairness, consistency in hiring…so read on.

Ready for your close up? Here’s what the OFCCP will likely be looking for.

While the details of the Affirmative Action Program Verification Initiative are still being worked out, there are already some strong hints as what you can expect.

First, the agency will be performing yearly compliance checks with all contractors—not just ones that have warranted an audit.

Second, the OFCCP will now request that you hand over your AAP immediately – which rules out the option of drafting one “on the fly”. But, to be fair, the OFCCP will allow you to request an extension of time in order to gather supporting data (showing you’ve been actively working toward the goals outlined in your AAP).

The OFCCP has also indicated that it plans to develop software that will facilitate the collection and reviewing of AAPs. That means it's in your best interest to have an AAP that’s carefully drafted, thoroughly considered, and meets the requirements of the OFCCP’s initiative, to avoid raising red flags. Think of it in the same vein as a resume that is tailored to a job to get through the Applicant Tracking System: by utilizing a algorithm-based review program – you need to make sure all your AAP is current, consistent and compliant.

Don’t panic. You still have time to batten down the hatches

The OFCCP announced its Affirmative Action Program Verification Initiative on August 24, 2018. It’s never to early to start getting ready, so here’s what you can do.

But as a Floridian, let me share some tried-and-tested wisdom with you because new government regulations are much like hurricanes - the predictions may not be specific, but Floridians know to always prepare for when the next one is coming. In other words, we aren’t surprised when it hits, and neither should you be when you are asked to submit your AAP.

So how can you get ahead of this storm?

Step 1: draft, review, and update. Make sure you’ve got your fully drafted and reviewed AAP ready for each fiscal year. Remember, if you want to get ahead of the upcoming reviews, get it on your calendar now so you won’t forget.

Step 2: goals. Make sure your plan is realistic and will achieve your intended goals accurately and fairly. The best way to ensure this is by working hand-in-hand with your Talent Acquisition team to get a current feel for what the employee market is like for your organization.

Step 3: implement. Ensure your Talent Acquisition team are aligning their strategy to incorporate that information – in other words, it’s time to spearhead training to make sure everyone is on the same page!

Step 4: collect and report. You’ll need to provide supporting data when your yearly compliance check comes around, so make your life easy by being meticulous about collecting all data throughout your hiring practice. With all your data in hand, it’s also easier to self-audit, helping you put your finger on problems like adverse impact before the OFCCP comes calling.

And the best step you can take? Implement a robust candidate evaluation process that effectively eliminates bias from your process and makes it easy to treat all applicants equally. That way, you can show the OFCCP that you appreciate the core principles behind affirmative action and are committed to treating all applicants fairly—all while making it easier to find the best person for the job.

That’s what was designed for. Our software solution simplifies compliance by withholding all potentially biasing information until you’ve determined whether an applicant is a viable candidate for the job. And with convenient quick-button reporting, you’ve got all the supporting data you need at your fingertips, helping you ace the audit and get on with other important things, like deciding which qualified candidate to hire.

Don’t let the latest compliance regulations blindside you. Prepare with

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