A few weeks ago, a jury in New Jersey federal court found that Lockheed Martin discriminated against a former employee. The employee claimed that Lockheed violated federal and state laws by discriminating against him on the basis of age, including by paying him less than his younger co-workers. The jury’s award: $51.5 million ($1.5 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages).  Although the claim was only partially based on unequal pay, and although the punitive damages award is constitutionally suspect (U.S. Supreme Court precedent holds that punitive damages should generally not be more than ten times the amount of compensatory damages), the award is indicative of an ever-emerging emphasis on pay equity.

Since January of 2016, several states have enacted equal pay statutes, and several others have pending legislation. California, New York, Maryland, and Massachusetts all have statues that prohibit pay discrimination on the basis of sex (Maryland’s also includes gender identity). Each of these statutes makes it easier for employees to establish pay discrimination claims, including requiring no proof of intent. One state, however, allows employers to establish an affirmative defense. Under Massachusetts’ statute, which is set to go into effect in July 2018, an employer has an affirmative defense if it completed a self-evaluation of its pay practices within three years of the claim, and it made reasonable progress toward eliminating pay differences revealed by the self-evaluation.

It is not just states that have turned their focus toward compensation. Our federal contractor subscribers – recognizing that Lockheed Martin is a federal contractor (the biggest, actually) – may find themselves wondering how aggressive the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has become with respect to compensation. If its lawsuit against Google is any indication, OFCCP has become quite aggressive. Typically, during a compliance audit OFCCP will require employers to provide compensation data for all current employees to ensure no disparity across races and genders. With Google, it went further. It demanded wage histories, changes in compensation, and employee contact information. When Google refused, OFCCP filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction and threatened to cancel all of Google’s federal contracts.

Finally, even if you are not in a state that has current or pending pay equity statutes, and even if you are not a federal contractor, employers may need to report compensation in the future. For employers with 100 employees or more, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has proposed to collect compensation data by sex, race, and ethnicity for each job category. Thus, starting in March 2018 – assuming no changes occur under the new Trump administration – those employers will be required to include compensation information in their EEO-1 report. According to the EEOC, this “will provide a much needed tool to identify discriminatory pay practices where they exist in order to ensure that fair pay practices are put in place.”

Considering all this momentum toward ensuring pay equity, compensation has possibly become one of employers’ greatest vulnerabilities.  Now may be the time to conduct an internal analysis – preferably one shielded by attorney-client privilege – to determine whether disparities exist within your compensation structure. Stay tuned for future podcasts, webinars, and seminars that will address this issue in part.

Back on September 7, 2015, President Obama signed Executive Order 13706, which requires that certain federal contractors provide their employees up to fifty-six hours of paid sick leave per year. In February of this year, the United States Department of Labor issued proposed rules to implement the Executive Order, and it invited public comment on recommended changes. Our blog subscribers may remember that we posted an outline of the requirements under the proposed rules in March. You can find that blog post here. Following the submission of over 35,000 comments, the Department of Labor issued the final rules on September 30, 2016, leaving the proposed rules largely untouched. The final rules become effective on November 30th and apply to new contracts entered into after January 1, 2017 (except those unilaterally renewed by the government pursuant to a pre-negotiated option).

In the aftermath of last Tuesday’s election, we now know that Donald Trump will assume the Presidency on January 20, 2017. Your feelings about the outcome of the election aside, we know two important things about President-Elect Trump that are relevant to federal contractors: (1) he is of a political ilk quite different than President Obama; and (2) because of his contra political affiliation, he has promised to rescind most, if not all, of President Obama’s executive orders. So, with paid sick leave regulations set to go into effect, and a President-Elect who has promised to rescind such an order, what is a federal contractor supposed to do?

In short – comply with the regulations. Why? First, the regulations go into effect before President-Elect Trump is even sworn into office. Thus, the regulations will be binding on covered federal contractors and will have the same force and effect as all other regulations. Second, there is no certainty that President-Elect Trump will actually rescind Executive Order 13706. While he has spoken generally about rescinding President Obama’s executive orders, he has not specifically referenced the paid sick leave order. Indeed, during his campaign, President-Elect Trump announced a plan for six weeks of paid maternity leave. Such a plan would largely be at odds with rescinding Executive Order 13706, which requires paid leave be permitted for the same purpose. Third, assuming he does actually intend to rescind Executive Order 13706, it is not likely to happen early in his presidency. He has published his plan for the first one-hundred days of his term; paid sick leave is not on list.

Although federal contractors should comply with the regulations, contractors may want to reevaluate their compliance strategy in the short term. For example, the regulations provide that contractors must allow employees to accrue up to fifty-six hours of paid sick leave over the course of a year. Alternatively, a contractor, in lieu of calculating the accrual of paid sick leave, can simply give employees all fifty-six hours at the beginning of the year. Both methods have pros and cons. The accrual method has administrative costs associated with tracking hours worked, but the regulations allow a contractor to limit the number of hours an employee has available for use. The up-front method has no administrative cost for tracking hours, but the regulations provide that contractors cannot limit the number of hours an employee has available for use. A contractor, considering the long-term costs and benefits, may choose, for example, to select the up-front method because the cost associated with the accrual method, for them, outweighs the benefit of limiting the availability of use. But the same may not be true in the short term. Thus, given the potential that the Executive Order may ultimately be rescinded in the next few years, a different strategy may be appropriate.

So, if you are a federal contractor that employs any of the 1.2 million employees that will ultimately be covered by the regulations, you should continue to plan, prepare, and implement your compliant paid sick leave policy. But, while you continue that process, it may be worth taking the time to reevaluate your strategy.

Employers with more than 100 employees and federal contractors are probably more than familiar with the EEO-1 reporting requirements, but those requirements are about to change. On July 13, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission published a revised version of a proposed rule to broaden the scope of data collected in the EEO-1 report. Earlier this year, the EEOC issued an initial version of the proposed rule, which would have required additional reporting on each of ten categories of employees and pay information reported by race and gender.  The July 13 version of the rule contained some key changes.

Changes to Proposed Rule

Under the new proposal, the EEOC will require reporting on an employer’s established pay ranges for positions and hours worked. In response to the comments received regarding the initial proposal, the revised proposal proposes moving the due date for filing the required report from September 30, 2017 to March 31, 2018. This change will allow employers to use employee’s W-2 earnings for reporting. Because of the revisions to the proposal, a new 30 day notice and comment period commenced with the release of the new revised proposal in the federal register.

Purpose of Data Collection

EEOC explained that it intends to use pay data for early analysis of discriminatory complaints. Investigators will examine the data for pay disparities and perform statistical analyses, yet to be determined in order to investigate whether compensation discrimination appears likely. EEOC has further stated that it will compare periodic reports on pay disparities by gender and race based on the data. Finally, the agency will use the data to enhance its support for training programs by, among other things, providing supporting evidence for training programs.

What Should I Do Now

EEOC actually pays attention to the comments it receives as is evidenced by the new revised proposed rule. We strongly encourage employers to make comments on the hardships the proposed revised rule would create. EEOC has remained silent on how it will account for the merit based non-discriminatory factors that could lead to differences in pay in the same job category. This is an issue we suggest employers should press heavily in their comments. Tenure, skill sets and even the broad nature of the job categories themselves can be pivotal in determining wage differences. Stay tuned, we will likely see more changes when the final rule is published.

 

On June 14, 2016, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) released its updated final rule regarding sex/gender discrimination. The stated purpose of the update was to revise OFCCP’s decades old guidance which was, at some level, in conflict with certain new principles currently espoused by EEOC. For example, OFCCP’s old rule required covered contractors to provide separate bathrooms for men and women.

Oh how times have changed!

The new rules do some reiterate well-known requirements that personnel actions may not be taken on the basis of gender. The rule also reminds contractors that distinctions between married and unmarried persons in the workplace, without applying them equally to men and women, are unlawful.

With respect to gender identity, the rule explains that contractors may not make facilities and employment-related activities available only to members of one sex. Significantly, the rule provides that if a contractor provides showers, changing rooms, restrooms or other similar facilities, the contractor must provide same sex or single user facilities as well. The rule goes on to state that employers must allow employees to use the facilities consistent with the gender with which they identify. It also makes it unlawful to discriminate against applicants based on the applicant’s receipt of “transition-related medical services.”

The final portion of the rule covers some nonbinding best practices recommended by OFCCP including avoiding the use of gender-specific job titles such as foreman or linemen.

While the revised rule addresses a number of other issues regarding sex discrimination, harassment and pay discrimination, the revisions related to gender stereotypes and gender identity seem to be the largest change. The rules are effective August 14, 2016. They apply to all covered government contractors with contracts of $10,000 or more. The final rule is available here.

Covered contractors should note that the rules will likely require some changes to their restroom facilities and should plan accordingly. As always, the true impact of these rules will not be fully understood until courts begin to rule on their implementation. Stay tuned.

The United States Department Labor recently issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to enforce President Obama’s September 2015 Executive Order establishing paid sick leave for federal contractors. Now that we have been able to digest the lengthy proposed rules, we wanted to share some of our thoughts about the proposed rules with you.

What do the proposed rules say?

The proposed rules require certain federal government contractors and subcontractors to annually provide their employees with up to seven (7) days of paid sick leave. The leave can be utilized for the employee’s own illness, to attend a doctor’s appointment, to care for a sick family member, or for absences related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

If finalized, when will the proposed rule go into effect?

If the proposed rule is not challenged, it is expected that the rules will apply to certain contracts entered into with the federal government on or after January 1, 2017.

Will this proposed rule impact every federal contractor?

No. It will only impact four types of contractual agreements: 1) procurement contracts for construction covered by the Davis-Bacon Act; 2) service contracts covered by the Service Contract Act; 3) concessions contracts for services on federal lands (i.e. the snack stand at a national park); and 4) contracts in connection with federal property or land rentals/leases. So, if your company manufactures widgets for the federal government, the proposed rule likely does not apply to you. However, if your company is constructing a building for the federal government, providing a service to the federal government, renting space from the federal government or vice versa, your company is probably covered by the new rule.

Does the proposed rule apply to all employees or just the employees servicing federal contracts?

The proposed rule only applies to persons engaged in performing work on a covered federal contract. The regulations provide that an employee who spends more than 20% of his/her working time performing services in connection with a covered federal contract is also covered under these rules. However, as a matter of practice, it may be difficult to explain to your workforce why some employees are entitled to paid sick leave and others are not.

Under the rule, will employees automatically be entitled to paid sick leave?

No. The rule requires contractors to allow employees to accrue at least one (1) hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked on a covered federal contract. The proposed rule envisions that contractors will be able to limit the amount of paid sick leave to 56 hours each year but must permit employees to carry over accrued, unused paid sick leave from one year to the next. Even though rollover is required, a contractor can prevent an employee from accruing additional sick leave in excess of 56 total hours.

The proposed rule requires the contractor to provide employees with at least a monthly update on the amount of paid sick leave the employee has accrued but not used. Employees will be permitted to take sick leave in increments of no greater than 1 hour.

How does an employee request paid sick leave under the proposed rule?

The proposed rule requires that the employee request (orally or in writing) the ability to take leave at least 7 calendar days in advance of foreseeable leave and as soon as practicable in all other cases. Worried the employee is faking it? The proposed rules only allow a contractor to require certification from a physician or other provider if the absence is for three or more consecutive days.

Is this really a big deal?

Assuming the new rules apply to your business, probably! Most American business already provide some type of paid time off or paid sick leave to their employees—and most provide in excess of seven (7) days. The Department of Labor estimates that this new proposed rule will only impact a relatively small number of people—about 437,000 employees—who currently receive no paid sick leave. But, because the proposed rule provides specific instructions regarding accrual, use, requests for leave, and rollover, this rule could impact how many employers administer their PTO and/or sick leave policies. The provisions regarding domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are also unique.  If certain requirements are met, a contractor’s existing paid sick leave or PTO policy could meet the requirements of the rule.

How can I let the federal government know my feelings on the proposed rule?

Provide comments by clicking on this link. You have until April 12, 2016 to do so.

Interested in learning more? Check out this Department of Labor Fact Sheet, shoot us an email, or give us a call. As this proposed rule moves toward final implementation, we are happy to assist you in developing a sick leave and/or PTO policy that complies with the President’s Executive Order.

 

As previously reported on this Blog, recent news reports indicated that President Obama would be issuing an Executive Order mandating paid sick leave for the employees of federal contractors. The President did just that on Monday (Labor Day). We have read the Executive Order and our analysis regarding its contents remains the same as when we reported on this issue last month. The Executive Order can be read here. The Executive Order is broad and much about the Order remains unanswered. We expect to have more answers to these questions when regulations are released by the Department of Labor on or around September 30, 2016. The requirements of the Executive Order will not go into effect until 2017.

We did notice one change from the draft Executive Order. In addition to “paid sick leave” including absences related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, if the time absent from work is for medical treatment/diagnosis, to obtain additional counseling, to seek relocation, to seek assistance from a victim services organization, to take related legal action, including preparation for or participation in any related civil or criminal legal proceeding, the final Executive Order also allows individuals to use paid sick leave to “assist an individual related to the employee . . . in engaging in any of these activities.” Recall from our prior post that an “individual related to the employee” is quite broad and includes “a child, a parent, a spouse, a domestic partner, or any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

Questions? Call meSchaun Henry, or your usual McNees Attorney contact.

We recently learned that President Obama plans to issue an Executive Order mandating paid sick leave for employees of federal contractors and subcontractors. This comes as no surprise as the President has utilized his power over the contracting community in recent years to further his policy goals that have stalled in Congress (such as increasing the minimum wage of federal contractors to $10.10 per hour and prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity). We took a look at the proposed Executive Order. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Contractors would be required to provide a minimum of 56 hours of paid sick leave per year and employees would be able to accrue at least 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Any accrued paid sick time would carry over from year to year.
  • Paid sick leave could be used for an employee’s medical condition, obtaining care from a doctor, or caring for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, “or any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” While the Executive Order is still in draft form, it seems that one could arguably take paid sick leave to care for a close friend.
  • Paid sick leave could also be used for absences “resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, if the time absent from work is to seek medical attention, obtain counseling, seek relocation, seek assistance from a victim services organization, or take related legal action, including preparation for or participation in any related civil or criminal legal proceeding.”
  • Employers paying employees fringe benefits under the Service Contract Act and Davis-Bacon Act would not be able to receive credit toward prevailing wage or fringe benefit obligations by providing sick leave to satisfy the Executive Order.
  • Contractors would only be able to require certification from an employee (such as a doctor’s note) if 3 or more consecutive workdays were missed.
  • Here is one employer-friendly provision: contractor’s would have no obligation to pay out the value of unused sick time to employees upon separation of employment.
  • Detailed regulations would be issued by the Department of Labor no later than September 30, 2016.

Will this Order apply to your company? If you have federal service or construction contracts or subcontracts, the answer is almost definitely yes.

We stress that the above anakysis is based off of a draft Executive Order obtained by The New York Times. While it seems likely that the President will soon issue an Executive Order, nothing is set in stone. The new regulations would go into effect on January 1, 2017, just 20 days before the end of President Obama’s second term.

We’ll keep you updated. Stay tuned. In the meantime, if you have concerns, please consider contacting your local Chamber of Commerce, Representative, or Senator.

As you may recall, last July, President Obama signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. While many large federal contractors already ban sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination (as well as a number of states and municipalities), there is no Pennsylvania or federal law broadly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace.

Over the past year the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has drafted and adopted rules implementing the President’s Executive Order. Those rules became effective on April 8, 2015. So what steps should federal contractors and subcontractors take to ensure they comply with these new regulations? While the new regulations only apply to contracts entered into or modified after April 8, here are a few proactive steps federal contractors can take to ensure future compliance:

a) Make sure that sexual orientation and gender identity are included in your non-discrimination policies and polices against discriminatory harassment

b) Update the Equal Opportunity Clause on your website, job applications, and in job advertisements to make clear that your company prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

c) Ensure that your future Affirmative Action Plans indicate the Company will treat all applicants and employees the same regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

d) Update your “EEO is the Law” poster when the EEOC releases a revised poster in the near future (but don’t hold your breath–they have been promising employers a new poster for over a year now!)

Unlike regulations governing minorities, women, protected veterans, and individuals with disabilities, these new regulations do not require contractors to conduct a data analysis related to the sexual orientation or gender identity of applicants or employees—nor is there any requirement that contractors ask employees and applicants to self identify their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Interestingly, an OFCCP FAQ states that contractors are required to “ensure that their restroom access policies and procedures do not discriminate based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant or employee. In keeping with the federal government’s existing legal position on this issue, contractors must allow employees and applicants to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.”

Questions? Feel free to e-mail or call.

Beginning today, March 24, 2014, federal contractors and subcontractors have a number of new responsibilities. Contractors already have the existing obligation to collect demographic data regarding race and gender and take affirmative action to recruit, hire, and retain qualified minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, and protected veterans. Now contractors must take additional steps to recruit and hire individuals with disabilities and protected veterans, including the collection of data related to the status of applicants and employees as protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Specifically, federal contractors and subcontractors are required to:
• Invite applicants and employees to self-identify as individuals with disabilities or protected veterans;
• Track and analyze data related to applicants and employees who are individuals with disabilities and/or protected veterans;
• Notify subcontractors and vendors (and labor unions, if applicable) of their Affirmative Action requirements;
• Conduct written effectiveness evaluations to determine whether efforts to reach out to individuals with disabilities and protected veterans have been successful;
• Establish a 7% utilization goal for individuals with disabilities to measure the efficacy of affirmative action steps;
• Establish a hiring benchmark for protected veterans or adopt the 7.2% national benchmark to measure the efficacy of affirmative action steps; and
• much more!

Additionally, for the first time ever, construction contractors will be required to have written affirmative action plans for individuals with disabilities and protected veterans. While some in the construction industry were hopeful that the new regulations impacting individuals with disabilities would not apply to them, on Friday, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia rejected the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. challenge to the validity of the regulations. The Court concluded that the new rules are valid and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has broad authority to interpret what it means to "take affirmative action."

Between these new rules and President Obama’s Executive Order to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors, federal contractors are facing an onslaught of new regulatory requirements.

Stay tuned to the blog for more updates on issues that impact federal contractors, subcontractors, and all employers. Please feel free to contact me, Schaun Henry or any other McNees Labor & Employment attorney if you have any questions about how these new regulations may impact your business.

This post was contributed by Tony D. Dick, Esq., an attorney in McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC’s Labor and Employment Practice Group in Columbus, Ohio.

As expected, new U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has wasted little time implementing a number of agenda items in the few short weeks since his Senate confirmation. Most recently, Secretary Perez announced two new rules that amend longstanding regulations under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, which deal with federal contractors’ and subcontractor’s affirmative action and nondiscrimination obligations toward protected veterans and individuals with disabilities. Among other things, these new rules establish specific hiring metrics, data collection practices, and record keeping requirements that federal contractors must implement for veterans and disabled individuals seeking employment.

Below are some highlights of the final rules:

  • Utilization Goal for Individuals with Disabilities – The final rule under the Rehabilitation Act establishes, with some exceptions, a 7% hiring goal for qualified individuals with disabilities. While the goal is aspirational, contractors will be required to conduct an annual utilization analysis of individuals with disabilities within the organization, assess problem areas, and establish specific programs to address any identified problems.
  • Hiring Benchmarks for Protected Veterans – Under the final rule amending VEVRAA, federal contractors must establish annual hiring benchmarks for protected veterans utilizing one of two methods. Contractors can either choose to set a benchmark that mirrors the national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force or they may establish their own benchmarks using certain data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Veterans’ Employment and Training Service/Employment and Training Administration.
  • Job Listings Requirements for Protected Veterans – The final rule under VEVRAA also clarifies that when listing job openings, contractors must provide the information in a manner and format permitted by the appropriate state or local job services, so that it can be easily disseminated to veterans seeking jobs.
  • Data Collection – Under both rules, contractors must now document and annually update several quantitative comparisons concerning the number of veterans and individuals with disabilities who apply for jobs and the number of veterans and individuals with disabilities who are actually hired. Such data must be maintained for three years.
  • Invitation to Self-Identify – Both rules also require contractors to invite applicants to self-identify as a veteran and/or an individual with a disability at both the pre-offer and post-offer phases of the application process.
  • Records Access – The new rules also clarify that contractors must permit officials from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to review documents to establish compliance with the rules.

The regulations are expected to be published in the Federal Register early next month and will go into effect 180 days later. Contractors with affirmative action plans already in place on the effective date of the new rules may keep those plans until the end of their plan year. Thus, federal contractors and subcontractors that submit affirmative action plans at the beginning of each calendar year will not be required to submit affirmative action plan documents based on these new rules until the beginning of 2015. However, contractors must begin following the data collection, record keeping, and other requirements of the new rules immediately after the rules take effect. Accordingly, if you are a federal contractor or subcontractor, now is the time to begin to revising your policies, procedures and relevant forms to conform with the Department of Labor’s new rules so that you are not caught flat-footed when the rules go into effect.