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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Promote Fair and High Quality Work-Life Environments

Date: Wednesday, August 7 at 2 p.m. EDT

Participating agencies:

  • Mine Safety and Health Administration
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • Office of Disability Employment Policy
  • Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
  • Office of Labor-Management Standards
  • Wage and Hour Division
  • Women's Bureau

How to Participate

  • Enter your question directly into the live chat window found on the interactive page.

1:40 Moderator: The chat will being at 2:00. You can start submitting your questions now. There are no audio or visual components to today’s webchat.

2:00 Moderator: On behalf of the Department, the Performance Management Center and the Office of Public Affairs welcome you to the FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan Stakeholder Webchat for Strategic Goal 3 – Promote fair and high-quality work environments.

The Strategic Objectives associated with this Goal are to break down barriers to fair and diverse workplaces and narrow wage and income inequality, and to protect workers’ rights.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Women’s Bureau, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) are prioritizing their activities and strategies; emphasizing those efforts most likely to help us achieve our Strategic Goal and Objectives – which are central to the Department’s mission to ensure access to opportunity for all.

This is your opportunity to influence our strategies and the implementation of our priorities and we thank you for your participation. Today, we want to:

• Collect your feedback on DOL’s proposed strategies to promote fair and high-quality work environments and listen to your ideas on implementing our priorities.
• Consider your views and concerns as we prepare the Strategic Plan.

We are joined by Deputy Director of Policy Heidi Casta and Deputy Director of Program Operations Marika Litras from OFCCP; Assistant Secretary Kathleen Martinez from ODEP; Acting Director Andrew Auerbach and Director of Field Operations Stephen Willertz from OLMS; Assistant Administrator for Planning, Performance, Evaluation, and Communications Libby Hendrix from WHD; Acting Director Latifa Lyles from the Women’s Bureau; Senior Policy Advisor Deborah Berkowitz from OSHA; and Assistant Secretary Joe Main and Senior Policy Advisor Doug Parker from MSHA.

As a reminder, there are no audio or visual components to today’s webchat.

2:06 Comment From Anda Clark: For the Women's Bureau: We at Legal Momentum are pleased to see the prioritization of strategies aimed at breaking down barriers to women in the workplace. Those barriers remain particularly overwhelming for women in nontraditional trades. How can the Bureau’s plan to promote women’s workforce participation, advancement and retention be targeted specifically at nontraditional job sectors?

2:06 Latifa Lyles: Thank you very much for your question and your on-going work to advance opportunities for working women. The Bureau will promote employment of women in non-traditional jobs such as information and technology (IT) and in the transportation sector, where, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Women in the Labor Force: A Databook (2012 edition), women represent 15% of the workforce. The Bureau will conduct analyses of recruitment and retention strategies in a range of jobs with varying education and training requirements. Findings of this research will assist in developing industry practice and/or policy recommendations and serve as resources as the Bureau works to increase the rate of women’s participation in various sectors.

2:07 Comment From Beth Scott: Despite recent budget cuts, the Women’s Bureau has been doing significant work in empowering our nation’s working women. What upcoming projects does the Bureau have planned?

2:07 Latifah Lyles-WB: Thank you for your question.
The Bureau will conduct analyses of recruitment and retention strategies in a range of jobs with varying education and training requirements. Findings of this research will assist in developing industry practice and/or policy recommendations and serve as resources as the Bureau works to increase the rate of women’s participation in various sectors.
For example, the Bureau will promote employment of women in non-traditional jobs such as information and technology (IT) and in the transportation sector, where, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Women in the Labor Force: A Databook (2012 edition), women represent 15% of the workforce.

2:10 Comment From Anda Clark: For the OFCCP:Regarding your stated objective of ensuring thorough and high-quality evaluations by compliance officer - what are some of the steps you will take and strategies you propose implementing to improve the quality and effectiveness of compliance reviews?

2:10 Marika Litras: Thank you for your question.OFCCP is achieving this goal by increasing the thoroughness and breadth of investigative efforts through implementation of Active Case Enforcement (ACE). The defining feature of ACE is the full desk audit in every compliance evaluation to ensure the contractor’s compliance with Executive Order 11246, Section 503, and VEVRAA.

OFCCP aims to improve the quality and efficiency of its compliance evaluations and complaint investigations through prioritizing compliance reviews based on the strength of full desk audit results, training and staff development, and rigorous internal auditing. For instance, OFCCP will continue to provide basic, intermediate, and advanced training to its compliance officers to ensure that they are knowledgeable in assessing compliance, identifying discrimination, and obtaining effective remedies for violations.

2:13 Comment From Beth Scott: According to its regulatory agenda, the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance was expected to released its notice of proposed rule-making for the compensation data collection tool in July. It’s now August. When should we expect this notice?

2:13 Heidi Casta: Thank you for your question. We continue to work on the compensation regulation and don’t have further update at this time beyond what is available on the regulatory agenda.

2:14 Comment From Sara: How can we access a draft of the new strategic plan so that we can submit comments? What's the timeline for submitting comments?

2:14 Charlotte Hayes: Thank you for your interest in the DOL Strategic Plan, Sara. The goals and objectives of the department have remained substantially the same as in the previous DOL Strategic Plan available at http://www.dol.gov/_sec/stratplan/. What will change are the strategies we use to achieve those goals. The strategies appear at http://www.dol.gov/_sec/stratplan/2014outreach/. Please use these as a basis for your comments. DOL will publish a final draft of the Strategic Plan in February 2014. We welcome any comments you have through November 2013.

2:18 Comment From Guest: Why is OLMS focusing on efforts to increase electronic filing?

2:18 Andrew Auerbach: Electronic filing makes reports available almost instantaneously (versus the weeks-long turn-around of manual scanning and uploading). Also, the submission software has built in accuracy checks that will not allow a report to be submitted until all accuracy checks are met. Therefore, an increase in electronic filings should reduce the number of deficient reports. Additionally, electronic filing should reduce the demand for scanning services provided by outside contractors, potentially leading to lower costs.

OLMS will use its existing outreach tools (seminars, help desk, compliance assistance incidental to an audit) to introduce union leaders to the new web-based forms to increase electronic filing.

2:20 Comment From Eric Frumin, Change to Win: DOL has done a good job of increasing public availability of its enforcement data, especially the "DOL Data Enforcement" search portal. And some of the Agencies collect compliance-related data from employers at the enterprisewide level. Are there other ways that the enforcement agencies can coordinate the sharing of enforcement information to assist the public in understanding the compliance and non-compliance status at both individual employers as well as across the many sites of large employers?

2:20 David Michaels: Great question. The DOL enforcement agencies are collaborating on better ways to provide information to the public on compliance and noncompliance status of employers across agency lines. There are many challenges in providing this type of data, but we are committed to working together to address this issue.

2:21 Comment From Guest: How is the WHD increasing corporate-wide sustained compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act?

2:21 Libby Hendrix: WHD has reengineered Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) enforcement from a complaint-by-complaint approach to a more strategic approach, including pursuit of corporate-wide compliance. WHD will conduct more thorough, in-depth reviews of the employer’s business practices and leave policies – with the objective of making a broader impact on compliance, rather than only resolving one individual complaint. Additionally, WHD will increase the number of onsite FMLA investigations.

2:28 Comment From Guest: How is OFCCP expanding stakeholder outreach?

2:28 Heidi Casta: OFCCP is shifting from an old model that primarily focused on outreach events to a model that values developing relationships with stakeholders that can provide support for our mission and priorities. This shift would align outreach with our regulatory agenda, our enforcement priorities, and our other efforts to reduce employment discrimination that limits the ability of women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and others to get and keep good jobs. Some examples of this new direction in outreach include:

• Developing relationships with organizations and groups to educate workers about their rights and how to file a complaint, and identify workers who may be victims of discrimination.

• Developing relationships with organizations and groups that can provide contractors access to a diverse pool of qualified job applicants.

• Developing relationships that will improve our ability to locate victims after we reach a settlement with the employer on their behalf.

• Developing relationships, using surveys, and conducting listening sessions to get feedback about their experience interacting with OFCCP.

• Developing outreach material that is language and culture appropriate.

2:28 Comment From Guest: How is ODEP enhancing integrated employment opportunities where people with disabilities work alongside their non-disabled peers and are paid at least the minimum wage?

2:28 Kathleen Martinez: When individuals with significant disabilities enter the general workforce through integrated employment strategies, on average, they receive higher wages than their peers engaged in group employment; are more likely to receive employer-supported benefits; and can secure placements in a wider variety of industries or even in self-employment. ODEP’s priority of increased community-based, integrated employment opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities also reflects growing support for a national movement called Employment First, a framework for systems-change that is centered on the premise that all citizens, including those individuals with the most significant disabilities, are capable of full participation in integrated employment and community life. Many states have formally committed to the Employment First framework through official executive proclamation or formal legislative action. To assist states transitioning to this approach, ODEP’s Employment First State Mentorship Leadership Program (EFSMLP) will provide technical assistance in three tiers:

Tier One: Intensive Technical Assistance in Core States -- This tier is a continuation of the original three protégé states (Iowa, Oregon, and Tennessee) and the mentoring state (Washington) in the EFSLMP.

Tier Two: Employment First Vision Quest State Working Groups – Piloted in FY 2013 among the core states, this Working Group series provides a cost-effective model for deploying more in-depth policy consulting and technical assistance to small groups of states participating in the EFSLMP Community of Practice. The goal of Tier 2 is for small state working groups to focus collectively on a time-sensitive policy topic related to the successful implementation of Employment First strategies at the state level.

Tier Three: Community of Practice – The EFSLMP will continue to host a Community of Practice, which includes technical assistance events via webinar; community bulletins outlining latest developments; and a virtual policy platform through ePolicyWorks that allows state teams nation-wide to work together on policy issues regarding the implementation of Employment First strategies.

2:30 Comment From Guest: Does MSHA expect an increase in discrimination cases?

2:30 Joe Main: MSHA has seen an increase in miners filing discrimination claims and we expect that trend to continue. There has been an increase in large part because of MSHA’s aggressive efforts to educate miners about their rights and make sure that when miners file claims, MSHA investigates them thoroughly. When a miner is fired and they have a non-frivolous claim of discrimination under the Mine Act, MSHA has sought temporary reinstatement for the miner. In FY 2012, MSHA filed 46 temporary reinstatement actions-more than double of any other year. MSHA also brought a record number of discrimination merit cases on behalf of miners. Protecting miners when they do file claims is another reason MSHA is seeing more claims filed. This increase in miners’ confidence to file a claim is a credit to the hard work of MSHA and Office of the Solicitor staff.

2:36 Comment From Guest: Please expand on OLMS’ early-intervention strategy.

2:36 Andrew Auerbach: OLMS has been able to identify areas where early intervention can assist in reducing elapsed case time. In many instances, OLMS is warned that a complaint is being contemplated when a union member contacts a district office or the national office for information. When a request for information is received, an investigator can discuss the complaint with the member, gathering preliminary information and intelligence to get a head start on the preliminary steps involved in case processing (thus reducing post-complaint lapsed days). In addition, an investigator can also inform the complainant as to the documents and information that will be needed to properly handle the case. In these cases, the complainant is likely to file a more complete complaint, reducing time spent on gathering missing or incomplete data. OLMS began to make better use of this strategy in FY 2013 and will extend these efforts into 2014 and beyond.

2:36 Comment From Steve Sanders: In 1995 NIOSH recommended that the level of respirable dust in coal mines be reduced by half to prevent black lung disease. Since then, NIOSH studies show that x-ray evidence shows a significant increase in black lung disease. Three years ago MSHA published a proposed rule to reduce the permissible level of dust and to require the use of continuous personal dust monitors. The comment period on the proposed rule was closed over two years ago. Can you tell us what the present timetable is for issuing a rule?

2:37 Joe Main: Thanks, Steve, for the question. Although we do not have a firm date, we are moving forward in the rulemaking process. In addition, MSHA has launched a number of efforts to protect the nation’s miners under the current standards as part of In Black Lung – Act Now campaign and last year we added respirable dust as one of the criteria we use for impact mine inspections.

2:41 Comment From Guest: How does the Wage and Hour Division propose to promote fair work environments? The strategic plan provides vague or broad objectives such as "prioritizing resource decisions," "utilizing strategies," and "strategic use of compliance tools." What strategies will encourage compliance? What compliance tools? Which priorities?

2:41 Libby Hendrix: Thank you for your question. At this point you are correct, the strategic plan identifies Wage and Hour Division’s strategies and priorities broadly. WHD’s strategic enforcement is a balance of complaint and self-initiated (or directed) investigations; outreach to workers, worker advocates, and community organizations; and compliance assistance to employers. To ensure that investigations achieve long-lasting results, WHD is emphasizing enforcement tools that provide incentives for employers to continue to comply with applicable labor laws. Those tools may include the use of civil money penalties under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the use of enhanced compliance agreements, and the imposition of debarment, revocation of certificates and other sanctions. WHD is also providing incentives for employers who have been investigated to stay in compliance and to provide non-investigated employers incentives to evaluate their wage and hour policies and make necessary changes. Those strategies may include, for example, leveraging the enforcement authority of local, state and other federal agencies and providing compliance assistance through mainstream media and community resources such as newsletters, radio and television shows, websites and waiting room monitors.

2:46 Comment From Beth Scott: For the OFCCP: Are there other priorities that the OFCCP is focusing on that are taking the place of providing a notice for the proposed rule-making for the compensation data collection tool? If so, what are these priorities?

2:46 Heidi Casta: OFCCP continues to pursue its ambitious regulatory reform agenda to revise outdated and ineffective provisions in several of our regulations. Our intent is to incorporate current law and legal principles, support the ability of contractors to conduct self-assessments of their employment practices, and increase contractor accountability. These actions, and other enforcement and policy changes, should go a long way toward ensuring that workers have a fair shot at seeking, obtaining and retaining good jobs. We are focused on getting to Final Rules for Section 503 on disabilities and VEVRAA for veterans. In addition to the pending proposal on a new compensation data collection tool, we are also updating the sex discrimination guidelines, and while not a regulation, we are revising the Scheduling Letter, which is under review by OMB.

2:46 Comment From Anda Clark: for Latifa Lyles: thank you so much for your response.What strategies for employment promotion might be implemented specifically with respect to construction trades, where women represent only 2.6% of the workforce nationwide?

2:46 Latifa Lyles: One of the Bureau’s strategies is to develop relationships with collaborators including DOL agencies, other federal agencies, and community-based organizations to explore and generate policy and practice changes that promote the recruitment and hiring of women in demand jobs which include construction and other jobs where women are traditionally under-represented.

2:49 Comment From Guest: What is ODEP doing to promote the hiring of persons with disabilities by small businesses?

2:50 Kathleen Martinez: Thank you for your question. ODEP sponsors Add Us In. Add Us In is a pilot initiative developed to increase the capacity of small businesses to hire persons with disabilities. It focuses on underserved and historically underrepresented communities.

2:51 Comment From Tiffany Williams, National Domestic Workers Alliance: With the new incoming Secretary, will there be any movement toward the Department taking a more active role in certifying cases of human trafficking for T visas?

2:51 Libby Hendrix:
Thank you for your question, Tiffany. The Department’s Wage and Hour Division is working hard to fully implement the U-Visa program. We welcome hearing more from our stakeholders on the need for agencies to certify T-Visa applications.

2:51 Moderator: Thank you for your participation. If you want to provide further feedback, please submit your ideas and comments to DOLstratplan@dol.gov.

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