While half of the nation was under a thick blanket of snow and many schools and offices remained closed on February 5, almost 500 HR and compliance professionals called in to the highly anticipated webinar hosted by AJE President Rathin Sinha and Ahmed Younies, President of HR Unlimited. As the new regulations related to affirmative action and improvement of hiring and employment of veterans and people with disabilities go in to effect on March 24, the interest is very high to learn about the details of the changes and roadmap for implementation. The attendees were not disappointed. Both Ahmed and Rathin are industry leaders in their respective areas and they were not holding back to share their perspective and expertise. “This was a great webinar” exclaimed Pamela Headsten who was in attendance for her organization attendees in a note to Rathin “ I have been studying and researching this area aggressively for months now, and this was the single best source of information I have found yet. Thank you for doing this. Keep it up”.
Ahmed started out by explaining what the EO 11246 clause and how it is especially relevant in the context of good faith efforts. This is the major area that compliance officers go after. So he urged employers to have a solid and sustainable good faith effort program in place and pointed out that the new rules has something unprecedented; a self-id form for candidates with disabilities. This he called “the highlight of highlights.” Younies pointed out that the 8% hiring benchmark for protected veterans must be adhered to and meticulous documentation must be maintained for veteran applicants and hires. This is to measure the effectiveness of the outreach efforts. For Section 503, (of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973), the utilization goal of 7% is not a requirement but a goal to work towards. It should allow employers to plan good faith efforts. The Director of the OFCCP has called it “aspirational”. Good faith efforts should be workable, productive and should try to reach qualified applicants from protected groups. The amended VEVRAA has added this unique feature of self-id at pre and post offer for protected veterans and the Section 503 (amended), has added the same feature for people with disabilities. The added feature in this section is that at the start of the implementation of the AAP plan after March 24, 2014, the employer must survey entire workforce to get data on employee disability and needs to do this every five years, although it is highly encouraged for employers to do that in between using OFCCP prescribed language. Younies outlined that the AAP is the foundation of the compliance program. A good AAP plan followed closely will lead employers to figure out the Gap Analysis. In other words, what is falling short and keeping employers from reaching talent. AAP also helps employers assess if their good faith efforts need strengthening. The biggest value in formulating AAP plans is to determine adverse impact on specific groups during hiring so that it can be remedied by augmenting the applicant pool of protected groups. Younies used the graph slide to show a Utilization Analysis. Most settlements for lawsuits dealt with hiring violations he said in lower level jobs- laborers and operatives. He showed how female applicants were severely underrepresented among Laborers and Operatives in spite of availability. This kind of analysis will help in keeping selection process fair and in keeping accurate applicant tracking. He emphasized that recruitment sources must be identified and good faith efforts need to be examined every 6 months to determine its effectiveness. If needed, new recruitment sources need to be found for better outreach. The real idea is to have workable and beneficial good faith efforts, not only on paper. Good faith efforts drive accountability he said and it should be both internal and eternal. He asked employers to look internally and reach out to qualified talent in protected groups. Training could also be provided to such candidates to upgrade them. Employers should also have quality recruiting sources to provide them with what they are looking for. In short, good faith efforts should be customized to make a real difference.
The kind of violations that show up the most is failure to post on state employment delivery systems and to do effective veteran outreach. Other areas of violations are failure to use appropriate tag lines for job postings and not including previous year’s goal progress in the AAP. In short, the recruitment outreach is crucial. Good news is that the OFCCP has given flexibility to federal contractors and sub contractors to use activities that will help them reach their outreach goal. Both online and offline outreach should be specific for veterans and IUDs. It should be comprehensive and yearly assessments are needed to measure effectiveness.
Rathin recapped the key regulatory changes and pointed out the comprehensive 10-step outreach program that AJE follows. There is proof and records for all levels of outreach that AJE carries out as well as documentation of the results of such outreach. Employers can use AJE to ensure that stringent records will be kept for a smooth OFCCP auditing experience. Records now need to be kept for three years to show the effectiveness of trends followed. For VEVRAA, job postings have to be listed in a format acceptable by State Employment Service Delivery Systems (ESDS). Federal contractors now need to ask for priority referrals of protected veterans and provide the contact information of hiring manager at location. EEO statements must have “Veterans” or “Individuals with Disabilities” added to new and existing job listings.
Employers must be aware that the OFCCP’s audit will be detailed and lengthy. Records will be scrutinized and examined in great detail. Therefore, proof of outreach and analysis of its effectiveness should be strictly maintained. Proof of outreach can be maintained by job boards such as AJE. It entails maintaining proof of all job postings in job boards, in job sites specific to veterans and individuals with disabilities, and job distribution to local community based organizations. For VEVRAA there has to be proof of jobs being distributed to 1-Stop employment agencies and local and state ESDS job banks.
So how will results of outreach efforts be measured? Through aggregate views and clicks data by source-general, veteran and disability specific.
Rathin ended the webinar by elaborating what would ensure that if audited, employers would have nothing to worry about. He said that in order to have reporting and data analytics in compliance with OFCCP new rules, employers could use a service provider like AJE. Most importantly, employers need to stay involved with their service provider to make sure there are no surprises at audit time. So, employers need to make sure that all job postings have the necessary information –location, salary and EEO information, monitor job feed transmission reports to be sure that your jobs are reaching your service provider and finally, monitor job distribution outreach and posting performance of your service provider.