OFCCP Audits: How Will You Answer the Outreach to Veterans and Persons with Disabilities Questions?

I’ve recently come across some LinkedIn discussions, blogs and articles on Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) audits.  The one thing that seems to be catching HR professionals by surprise during the audits is the OFCCP’s interest in their company’s demonstrated outreach to veterans and persons with disabilities.

Patricia Shiu (the Director of OFCCP) has made the enforcement of affirmative action efforts for covered veterans and persons with disabilities a top priority. Click here to read a transcript of a live Q&A session Ms. Shiu held on December 8, 2009 where she outlined the OFCCP’s priorities (and, yes, if you scroll down to 3:24 in the chat record that is yours truly asking a question about how the OFCCP plans to educate contractors on hiring veterans).  Given the unemployment rate of veterans (particularly in the 18-24 year old age group and especially women service members), the continued expansion of the active military force (most of whose members will return to civilian life at some point), the huge number of Guard and Reserve members who rotate back to civilian life and find themselves looking for new jobs, and the growing number of disabled veterans struggling to find work, it is not surprising that there is a renewed interest throughout many parts of the Federal government in improving veteran employment.

If you have read up to this point and are not convinced that this blog contains information that applies to your organization, you might be surprised to find out what kinds of employers may be required (depending on the size of the contract awarded) to comply with some level of OFCCP regulatory requirements:

  • Any business with 50 or more employees and $50,000 or more in government contracts
  • Construction contractors and subcontractors who hold a Federal or federally-assisted construction contract in excess of $10,000.
  • Teaching hospitals doing research for a university that has a contract with the Federal government.
  • Colleges/universities who have been awarded grants or contacts to do research for Federal Agencies.
  • Businesses of all sizes that have been awarded American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds in the form of contracts or grants.

In particular with ARRA the bottom line is that if the government is giving your company tax-payer dollars to provide goods or services, it wants to know that you are making a sincere effort to employ and promote a diverse population.  That includes women, minorities, veterans and persons with disabilities.

If you are saying to yourself “Now, wait a minute – I only have to worry about my efforts in veteran outreach if my contract is over $100,000”, you would be technically correct (presuming that contract was awarded after December 1, 2003).  But if you recognized that the military demographic is over 41% non-white, almost 20% women, and includes a growing number of disabled veterans, you would quickly realize you could achieve many of your affirmative action goals just by making an effort to recruit service members in transition. Also, I would hope it is part of your long term business strategy to go after and win larger contracts/grants 🙂 so you might as well begin the process now in preparation for winning “the big one”.

When it comes to outreach to veterans, many companies do the bare minimum the OFCCP requires, which is to list their job openings with their state workforce agency.  While that certainly meets the requirement, it hardly qualifies as an extensive outreach program.  Additional things an employer can do to improve outreach include:

(Click on any hyperlink above to read blog entries I’ve made on the topic or web seminars I offer that cover the topic or additional resources.)

To encourage employers to improve their hiring of veterans and veterans with disabilities the OFCCP came up with the Good Faith Initiative for Veterans Employment (G-FIVE).   Click here to read a blog I wrote 18 months ago on the G-FIVE.  Each December the OFCCP releases its list of organizations that have attained G-FIVE recognition.  Organizations that receive G-FIVE recognition are excluded from an OFCCP compliance evaluation for three (3) years following the date the recipient receives the rating. Companies can self-nominate to be considered for G-FIVE recognition.

If your organization has been through an OFCCP audit recently, or has applied/been considered for G-FIVE recognition, I’d like to hear about your experience and what you have discovered about outreach to veterans and veterans with disabilities.  Please be sure to comment below.