The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) received a record $23 million in the past fiscal year to settle workplace discrimination charges, according to a Bloomberg Law analysis of publicly available government data.
How aggressive the OFFCP will be in 2018 remains to be seen. The OFCCP in October filed its first complaint against a federal contractor since President Trump took office in January and the agency continues to be led by an interim director while waiting for a new director to be appointed by the Trump administration.
The OFCCP has come under fire for the way it has approached regulating federal contractors. A report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in September summed up how many in the contractor community view OFFCP: “OFCCP is an agency that has lost its way, increasingly relying on abusive enforcement tactics and catchy press releases instead of focusing on its central mission of ensuring that companies participating as federal contractors take proactive, affirmative steps to ensure equal employment opportunity through a neutral enforcement program.”
For its part, the OFFCP in September held a series of town hall meetings with contractors to understand their views. The agency says it has already sent letters to contractors informing them of upcoming audits in 2018. To provide more guidance to contractors, the OFCCP has said it is redesigning fact sheets, educational webinars, frequently asked questions, and Help Desk to assist contractors with understanding and complying with federal regulations.
In the meantime, the agency appears to continue to focus on handling fewer audits of federal contractors, but with bigger paydays. Through the third quarter of fiscal year 2017, the OFCCP closed a mere 915 audits of federal contractors, down from 1,700 in the prior year. The number has been decreasing each year since fiscal year 2007, when the agency closed 4,900 audits.
A take-away is that federal contractors need to be constantly reviewing their work place practices and policies to ensure they are complying with federal regulations, including pay-equity laws which have become more of a target for OFCCP. Regardless of the Trump administration’s more pro-business outlook and desire to decrease regulation, nothing appears to be slowing the increasing cost of settlements that are resulting from OFFCP investigations.