As we have discussed in our prior blog posts in this series on the new OFCCP Regulations (which became effective on March 24, 2014), most of the new Regulations do not go into effect until the beginning of the contractor’s first plan year following March 24, 2014. Many contractors have delayed implementing these new requirements because their new plan year has not yet begun. The time for delaying is quickly coming to an end!
In this post, we continue with Step Six towards full compliance with the new Regulations. This step must be implemented by the beginning of your first new affirmative action plan after March 24, 2014.
Step 6. Disseminate Your Affirmative Action Program Internally
There has always been a requirement to engage in efforts to disseminate information about the affirmative action policy within the workplace. For example, it has always been “recommended” that contractors put their affirmative action policy in their handbook and notify any union that represents company employees of such affirmative action policy. Also, it has always been a requirement to provide notification to the union of the minorities/females affirmative action policy (and to post that notification). However, that notification has not been required for veterans/disabled persons affirmative action policy.
Under the new Regulations, contractors are now specifically required to include their affirmative action policy in their employee handbook or (if there is no handbook) to otherwise make it available to employees and to provide their employees’ union(s) with notice of their affirmative action policy and request their cooperation. However, it is not entirely clear what specific “policy” language must be published in the employee handbook. The safest course is to include the entire “Policy Statement” referred to in 60-741.44(a) and 60-300.44(a). However, a contractor might choose, instead, to include a simpler policy that states that the contractor has an obligation to engage in affirmative action efforts to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities and veterans (as well as minorities and women). Whether the OFCCP would find this shorter policy statement fully compliant remains to be seen.
This is also a good time for contractors to review the list of recommended steps in the Regulations for internal dissemination of the policy to determine which of those steps would also be appropriate. These recommended steps include:
(i) Inform all employees and prospective employees of its commitment to engage in affirmative action to increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities and protected veterans. The contractor should periodically schedule special meetings with all employees to discuss policy and explain individual employee responsibilities;
(ii) Publicize it in the company newspaper, magazine, annual report and other media;
(iii) Conduct special meetings with executive, management, and supervisory personnel to explain the intent of the policy and individual responsibility for effective implementation making clear the chief executive officer’s support for the affirmative action policy;
(iv) Discuss the policy thoroughly in both employee orientation and management training programs;
(v) Include articles on accomplishments of individuals with disabilities in company publications; and
(vi) When employees are featured in employee handbooks or similar publications for employees, include individuals with disabilities and disabled veterans.
Finally, remember that contractors are required to train all personnel involved with selection and recruitment in the affirmative action program. If employment decision-makers do not understand the policy, it is not likely there will be proper compliance.