OFCCP fetes vets

OFCCP turns an eye to vets for Veterans Day.

On the Friday before Veterans Day, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs unleashed multiple initiatives focused on veterans. The OFCCP enforces the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, which, among other things, requires federal contractors to take affirmative action to employ and to not discriminate against certain categories of veterans

The agency’s actions include the following:

  • Publishing an advance list of contractors subject to VEVRAA-focused reviews.
  • Issuing a Directive relating to spouses of protected veterans.
  • Posting an opinion letter regarding coverage of participants in the SkillsBridge Program of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Focused Reviews under VEVRAA

The OFCCP released a list of contractors to be scheduled for focused compliance reviews under the VEVRAA. Although the OFCCP has not yet received approval from the Office of Management and Budget to issue scheduling letters for VEVRAA-focused reviews, it published this list of anticipated compliance evaluations. The agency also provided FAQs regarding VEVRAA-focused reviews. Most significantly -- and consistent with focused reviews under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act -- the OFCCP notes that the scheduling letters will be issued to contractors' headquarters locations and that the focused reviews will include an onsite. 

To see whether your organization is on this list, go to the OFCCP’s FOIA library and select “FY 2019 CSAL Supplement.” Stay tuned to find out whether the Office of Management and Budget approves the scheduling letter. Once that occurs, the agency is likely to begin issuing letters to the organizations on the list.

Directive 2020-01 – Spouses of Protected Veterans

In its first Directive of fiscal year 2020, the OFCCP aims to ensure spouses of protected veterans are supported by federal contractors. The OFCCP’s regulations provide that contractors are prohibited from discriminating against an individual because that “individual is known to have a family, business, social or other relationship or association” with a protected veteran. To enforce this provision, the Directive states that the OFCCP will ask about it during onsite investigations. 

Specifically, when meeting with Human Resources representatives and managers, compliance officers will

  • “Offer compliance assistance” and provide a sample non-discrimination policy statement.
  • “Ensure that the contractor understands its obligation not to discriminate against qualified individuals whom the contractor knows to be spouses or other associates of a protected veteran."

Here is the text of the sample non-discrimination policy statement:

It is [Federal Contractor, Inc.’s] policy not to discriminate because of a person’s relationship or association with a protected veteran. This includes spouses and other family members. Also, [Federal Contractor, Inc.] will safeguard the fair and equitable treatment of protected veteran spouses and family members with regard to all employment actions and prohibit harassment of applicants and employees because of their relationship or association with a protected veteran.

Note that this is not a required policy or posting for federal contractors.

When a compliance officer interviews an employee during a compliance evaluation, the individual will be asked

  • Whether he or she is a spouse of a protected veteran.
  • Whether he or she has coworkers who are spouses of protected veterans.
  • Whether he or she has made "observations" regarding "treatment of spouses of protected veterans."

The compliance officer will also provide the employee information regarding the Veterans’ Employment Training Service’s portal for military spouses and will “direct the employee to OFCCP’s online resources for employees and job seekers.” 

Opinion Letter regarding SkillsBridge Program

OFCCP Director Craig Leen also issued the agency’s fourth opinion letter. This letter addresses the OFCCP’s jurisdictional coverage of organizations that participate in the Department of Defense’s SkillsBridge Program. 

The SkillBridge program grants service members the opportunity "to gain valuable civilian work experience through specific industry training" by matching civilian opportunities to a service member’s job training and work experience. The stated goal of providing service members with such opportunities is to enhance their marketability and career prospects following their separation from military duty. The SkillBridge program therefore aims to serve as a bridge between military service and civilian employment, with the Department of Defense overseeing the placement of service members in a variety of employment fields.

(Footnotes omitted.)

The opinion letter explains that the OFCCP has jurisdiction only over procurement contracts, not grants or cooperative agreements. Because “the SkillsBridge Program does not acquire property or services for the direct benefit of the federal government[,] but rather stimulates the important public purpose of transitioning service members to civilian life by affording employers and industry partners the opportunity to match their needs to the skills of service members at no cost,” it is not considered a contract over which the OFCCP would have jurisdiction. Rather, it is “more akin to a cooperative agreement.”

Thus, an entity’s participation in the SkillsBridge Program will not render it a federal contractor for purposes of OFCCP enforcement. 

It was a banner day for veterans at the OFCCP. Watch here for the OMB’s approval of the VEVRAA-focused review scheduling letter and more updates.

Our Affirmative Action Alert blog focuses on the latest news and topics affecting federal contractors and subcontractors and their compliance with affirmative action and other employment-related laws and regulations.  With breaking news, quick updates, and headlines on the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and affirmative action issues, this blog is a great resource for in-house counsel, HR managers, and other compliance professionals.  Our blog is a companion to Constangy’s Affirmative Action newsletters, which address significant legislative, regulatory, and administrative proposals and changes.  Subscribe to both to stay current on these important topics!

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