Category Archives: General HR News and Updates

Proposed Merger of the OFCCP & EEOC – The Trump Administration Wants to See This Happen!

It’s officially on the table.  The 2018 budget proposal released yesterday by the Trump Administration officially calls for the merger of the OFFCP with the EEOC by the end of fiscal 2018 (September 30, 2018).  The proposal states:

“The proposed merger will benefit employers, workers, and the public by consolidating the oversight of federal equal employment opportunity under one roof.”

The budget also reduces funding for the OFCCP from $105M to $88M, a reduction of 16%.  This is expected to reduce Agency headcount from 571 employees in 2017 to 440 in 2018, a reduction of 131 employees or 23%.

The proposal also calls for establishing two Skilled Regional Centers, located in San Francisco and New York staffed with “…highly skilled and specialized compliance officers capable of handling various large, complex compliance evaluations in specific industries, such as financial services or information technology.”  The budget goes on to state that having these Centers, “…reduces the need for a network of field area and district offices.”  All of this points to the elimination of many of the District and Regional offices, and their staffs.

It is not clear what is meant by the phrase, “…handling various large, complex compliance evaluations…”  It could imply conducting compliance reviews of multi-establishment locations of a single contractor instead of the current focus on a single establishment.  This would be a major new development in the scope of compliance evaluations as well as conducting self-audits.

The budget anticipates that the Agency will continue to focus on systemic compensation discrimination and that 35% of conciliation agreements will be based on pay.  The other major focus will be on “…larger federal and federally-assisted construction projects…”

As an aside, since the proposal specifically references banks and IT organizations, this should be taken as a heads-up to these organizations that they should be anticipating in-depth reviews of their compensation practices. 

Preliminary reactions from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and civil rights organizations have been to oppose the merger.  It is important to note that this is merely one of many proposals.  Comments from Senate and House Republicans have included statements that the budget will be “dead on arrival” when it reaches the respective legislative bodies.

It is important to keep in mind that even if the two Agencies do not merge, the OFCCP may still be looking at the loss of 16% of its funding and 23% of its staff as well as the fundamental restructuring of its operations.  This is just the opening salvo in the 2018 budget war.  Current indicators point to the legal concept of Affirmative Action and the associated compliance obligations continuing.  However, whether or not there is a merger, the enforcement protocols could be vastly different from what contractors have grown accustomed to under past administrations.

These remain interesting times.  We will keep you advised as further developments occur. 

The Future of the OFCCP, the Executive Order and Affirmative Action

It is with some trepidation that I even bring up this topic. However, as a practitioner of close to 40 years in the areas of affirmative action and EEO, I find myself more uncertain than ever before about the future of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), Executive Order (EO) 11246, and the legal principles behind affirmative action.

Ever since the election of Donald Trump, the future of affirmative action and the OFCCP has been a topic of discussion and conjecture in the legal, HR, and various stakeholder communities.  To the extent that commentators have been willing to weigh-in on the topic, most predictions have come down on the side that both the OFCCP and affirmative action as a legal principle are for the most part, “safe.”  However, just how “safe” things really are is far from certain.

On March 13, 2017, President Trump signed a new Executive Order directing the head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review every executive branch agency to identify “where money can be saved and services improved.”  OMB is to consider “… (ii) whether some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are redundant, including with those of another agency, component, or program…” and “… (iii) whether certain administrative capabilities necessary for operating an agency, a component, or a program are redundant with those of another agency, component, or program…”

Then, on March 16, 2017, President Trump’s 2017 budget was released.   The budget proposes a 21% reduction in funds for the Department of Labor (DOL).  There is nothing that indicates that the reductions will be spread evenly throughout the Department.  Some agencies and programs could experience larger reductions than others.

Six days later on March 22, 2017, Alexander Acosta, the nominee for Secretary of Labor, had his Senate confirmation hearing.  During the hearing, there was no discussion regarding his take on the future of the OFCCP.  However, in response to questioning, Acosta responded that he would follow the March 13, 2017 executive order.  Continue reading The Future of the OFCCP, the Executive Order and Affirmative Action

New Form I-9 in Effect

In November 2016, the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) revealed a revised version of the Form I-9.  As of January 22, 2017, all employers must begin using this new version (dated 11/14/2016 in the bottom-left corner).

The most prominent change to the new Form is that it is now available as both a traditional paper version and also as an interactive, fillable PDF document, allowing it to be completed with software found on most computers.  Being dubbed as a “Smart” document, the new PDF version has features such as drop-down menus and real-time error messages that will help both employers and employees properly complete the new Form.

Other minor changes include:

  • In Section 1, employees only need to provide “Other Last  Names Used (if any)” rather than “All Names Used.”
  • There are additional spaces to enter multiple preparers and translators. If you are using the “Smart” version, additional spaces will appear if you check the box indicating that more than one preparer or translator was used. If you are using the traditional paper version, the extra spaces are located on the Form I-9 Supplement.
  • In Section 2, there is now a dedicated space for “Additional Information,” eliminating the need to write comments and other miscellaneous information in the margins of the form as in the past.

To avoid any confusion, copies of the prior version, dated 03/08/2013, should be discarded.  The new I-9 has an expiration date of August 31, 2019.  Failure to use the revised Form may result in recently-increased penalties, which range from $216 to $2,156 for paperwork violations.

Be advised that even if your company uses E-Verify, all employers must use the Form I-9.  Utilizing E-Verify does not remove an employer’s obligation to complete the Form.

For copies of all versions of the Form as well as instructions on how to complete them, please visit:

https://www.uscis.gov/i-9

If you would like to discuss the new Form I-9 or E-Verify in more detail as they each apply to your specific organization, please do not hesitate to contact us.

EOs & Regulations – Promise to Repeal

A cornerstone of President-Elect Trump’s election campaign was the promise to roll-back and eliminate regulations and Executive Orders (EOs) issued and implemented by the outgoing administration.   In just the employment arena affecting federal contractors, this includes:

  • EO 13658 – Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors
  • EO 13665 – Pay Transparency
  • EO 13672 – LGBT regulations
  • EO 13673 – Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces (“blacklisting” – currently blocked by federal courts)  EO 13706 – Paid Sick Leave
  • New regulations for affirmative action for Veterans and the Disabled
  • New regulations on discrimination on the basis of sex

In addition, there are regulations, rules, and expanded/new interpretations of existing rules affecting all employers regarding eligibility for overtime (blocked last week by a Texas district court); expedited union representation elections; “ban-the-box” limitations; increased OSHA fines; the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act; and the revised EEO-1 report requiring compensation data.

Continue reading EOs & Regulations – Promise to Repeal

Injunction on Overtime Regulations

For the third time in less than 30 days, a federal court has blocked an Obama Administration change to the nation’s employment and labor laws from going into effect.

On Tuesday, November 22nd, a federal district court in Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the new overtime eligibility regulations, which would have raised the salary threshold to $47,476 from the previous $23,660, from going into effect on December 1st as planned.

The court held that the Department of Labor (DOL) lacked the authority to change the threshold.  Rather, the court held that the exemption from overtime eligibility was based on the duties performed, not on the basic salary threshold.

Therefore, at the moment, none of the current practices regarding eligibility for overtime will change as of December 1st.  However, it is probable that the DOL will challenge the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Whether the Court rules on the appeal prior to the change in Administrations remains to be seen.  If it does not, the new Administration can choose to either push the appeal, decline to push the appeal, or entertain new legislation rolling-back the change, which would make the appeal moot.

Employers who have already made changes in anticipation of the rule going into effect will need to evaluate those changes to determine whether they should remain in place or possibly be rescinded.

We will keep you posted of further developments with the injunction.

New Federal Overtime Regulations Released Effective December 1, 2016

 

New regulations changing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regarding eligibility for overtime were published on May 17, 2016 by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The FLSA sets rules governing minimum wage and eligibility for overtime. 

The changes consist of:

1.      A new minimum salary threshold before applying the  Executive, Professional or Administrative “Duties Test” of $47,476 annually ($913 per week), up from the current threshold of $23,660 annually ($455 per week).

2.    Up to 10% of the annual amount can consist of bonuses/commissions.  So, an individual making $45,000 annually but receiving a 10% bonus ($4,500) would meet the new threshold as their total pay would be $49,500, which exceeds the new $47,476 threshold.

3.       The effective date for the new regs is December 1, 2016.  This gives employers slightly more than six (6) months to complete their implementation strategy.

4.       The automatic adjustment to the salary level will now occur every three (3) years as opposed to annually.

5.       There has been no change to the Duties Test for Executive, Professional or Administrative employees. 

6.      The threshold for the Highly Compensated Employee exemption is now $134,404 annually.

This means that an individual must earn at least the new annual threshold ($47,476) before application of the FLSA’s “duties” exemption test can be considered. The “duties” test evaluates whether the individual meets one of the Executive, Professional, or Administrative exemptions. Continue reading New Federal Overtime Regulations Released Effective December 1, 2016

New I-9 Form Effective May 7, 2013

On March 8, 2013, The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a new version of the I-9 (Employment Eligibility and Verification) form. Employers should already be familiar with the I-9 form, as it is a federal requirement that all employees complete one upon being hired.  The purpose of the form is to verify the legal identity of employees working in the United States and to confirm they have the authorization to work, whether they are a U.S. citizen or not.  Though the changes from the old form to the new one are relatively minor, there can be penalties and fines for non-compliance. In order to make a successful transition to the new form, employers must be aware of the changes, and be prepared to answer questions on how to fill it out correctly.   Continue reading New I-9 Form Effective May 7, 2013