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OFCCP directives aim at protecting religious freedom

Government contractors subject to reviews

Posted August 15, 2018

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced two new policy directives focused on ensuring equal employment opportunity and protecting Americans’ religious freedom.

The first directive, one that focuses on equal employment opportunity (EEO), the OFCCP indicated that it is implementing a comprehensive compliance initiative, which seeks to ensure compliance with equal employment opportunity and anti-discrimination regulations in all of its protected groups. As part of this initiative, OFCCP will add focused reviews to its compliance activities, with comprehensive onsite reviews focused on each of the three enforcement authorities OFCCP enforces: Executive Order 11246, as amended; Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended.

The reviews are scheduled to begin in October 2018, and include mandatory onsite visits. While the OFCCP is tasked with developing a standard protocol for conducting the reviews, information regarding them is expected to be made publicly available in FAQs prior to scheduling them. The reviews, however, could include hiring, compensation, and disability accommodation information. Contractors can expect interviews with managers responsible for EEO, as well as a review of policies and practices.

The second directive, which focuses on religious freedom, protects the rights of religion-exercising organizations. It instructs OFCCP staff to take into account recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, such as the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, and White House Executive Orders that protect religious freedom. The Supreme Court issued rulings in 2014, 2017, and 2018 that safeguard the broad freedoms and anti-discrimination protections that must be afforded religion-exercising organizations and individuals under the U.S. Constitution and federal law. Additionally, Presidential Executive Orders strive to make clear the Administration’s commitment to protections for religious freedom, as well as ensuring a level playing field for faith-based organizations to compete for federal grants, contracts, programs, and other funding opportunities.

The directives provide guidance to OFCCP staff and federal contractors regarding enforcement and compliance policy and procedures. Organizations can benefit from being familiar with what OFCCP staff will be looking for.

By law, federal contractors are required to take affirmative steps to ensure equal opportunity in their employment processes. OFCCP enforces federal laws that prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, and status as a qualified individual with a disability or protected veteran. In addition, contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from discriminating against applicants or employees because they inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or that of others, subject to certain limitations.

This article was written by Darlene M. Clabault, SHRM-CP, PHR, CLMA of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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