OFCCP encourages stakeholders and agency employees to take advantage of the Ombuds Service. The following FAQs are provided to address what working with the Ombuds might actually entail.
- What is an ombudsman?
- How can the OFCCP Ombuds be helpful?
- Who is eligible to work with the Ombuds?
- Are there situations in which the Ombuds can NOT be helpful?
- What types of referrals does the Ombuds encourage?
- Is the Ombuds a representative of OFCCP? Of contractors or employees? Of worker rights organizations or anyone else?
- To whom does the Ombuds report?
- Are there exceptions to confidentiality?
- Do I need to disclose my name if I want to discuss a concern with the Ombuds?
- If I raise a concern with the Ombuds, who will find out about it?
- How does the Ombuds decide what is confidential and what is not?
- What is the difference between the Help Desk and the Ombuds Service?
- Does the Ombuds respond to all inquiries?
- Does the Ombuds ever decline a referral?
- How will the Ombuds communicate with me?
- How do I get in touch with the Ombuds?
1. What is an ombudsman?
Ombudsman is a Swedish word that literally translates to “representative.” Today, ombuds exist in government, higher education, healthcare, and various other industries with the common purpose of impartially facilitating the informal resolution of concerns. A public official employed by the Department of Labor and OFCCP, the Ombuds operates independent of other agency divisions, intentionally structured to guarantee autonomy and preserve neutrality. The Ombuds listens nonjudgmentally to all concerns while helping individuals evaluate their choices and explore options for resolution.
2. How can the OFCCP Ombuds be helpful?
The Ombuds strives to enhance communication between OFCCP and external stakeholders and to improve transparency in the agency’s compliance evaluation and complaint investigation activities. The Ombuds Service encourages collaboration and brings an impartial perspective when facilitating between OFCCP and stakeholders, meanwhile focusing on the advancement, efficiency and effectiveness of internal OFCCP operations. Think of the Ombuds as a resolution mechanism alternative to management, legal or Human Resources departments, one who can preserve the confidentiality of sensitive information, assist in the development of sustainable outcomes and refer you to helpful resources, when necessary.
3. Who is eligible to work with the Ombuds?
This is an external facing ombuds position, but one which assists both internally and externally. That means the Ombuds is available to facilitate resolution between OFCCP staff and stakeholders nationwide, including federal contractors and subcontractors, contractor representatives, industry liaison and compliance groups, law firms, workers’ rights organizations, and former, current, or prospective employees of federal contractors and subcontractors.
4. Are there situations in which the Ombuds can NOT be helpful?
Yes, the Ombuds Service does not conduct formal investigations and will not make binding decisions or impose penalties against external stakeholders, OFCCP staff, or anyone else. The Ombuds is further prohibited from negotiating on behalf of OFCCP or external stakeholders during administrative or judicial proceedings, conciliations or mediations. Ombuds Service participation during any of these or other settlement events would be, if anything, to facilitate resolution as a neutral third party. During compliance evaluations and complaint investigations, the Ombuds cannot replace or direct OFCCP field staff, and will not overturn decisions made at the field office levels. A stakeholder’s key contacts at OFCCP remain those in the regional and district offices, while the Ombuds Service is an outlet available to provide conflict resolution services when all other resources have been exhausted.
5. What types of referrals does the Ombuds encourage?
Any type of question, concern or complaint, whether it be related to a singular event or a larger, more frequent issue faced by OFCCP and/or the stakeholder community. Referrals can be made by stakeholders, OFCCP staff, or initiated by the Ombuds directly. The primary focus of the Ombuds Service is the resolution of any and all issues that might prevent a trusting, productive relationship between stakeholders and OFCCP, or the efficiency of agency staff and operations.
6. Is the Ombuds a representative of OFCCP? Of contractors or employees? Of worker rights organizations or anyone else?
No, the Ombuds is an employee of the Department of Labor and of OFCCP, but does not represent any one individual or entity. The Ombuds impartially advocates for fair processes but does not take sides, operates nonjudgmentally, and is an unbiased neutral third party.
7. To whom does the Ombuds report?
To ensure independence and maintain neutrality, the Ombuds operates outside of formal management channels and reports to the OFCCP career Deputy Director. The reporting structure is such that conversations with the Ombuds remain private, particularly when consisting of sensitive information that individuals request be held confidential. At the discretion of the Ombuds, there are situations which might require disclosure of non-identifying information, either through feedback, informal reports, or recommendations relayed to OFCCP senior leadership.
8. Are there exceptions to confidentiality?
Yes, and very important ones. The Ombuds reserves the right to report imminent risk of harm to self and/or others, and it is the Ombuds who interprets whether a risk actually exists. Additionally, the Ombuds Service has the discretion to report federal program fraud and abuse, or any issue that legally requires OFCCP to take action. These are strict exceptions to the Ombuds’ pledge of confidentiality.
9. Do I need to disclose my name if I want to discuss a concern with the Ombuds?
No. Confidentiality is critical to the successful operation of the Ombuds Service and therefore taken very seriously. The Ombuds does not require formal introductions and, in addition to the content of most conversations, your personal information may remain private. You have the option of submitting your concern(s) anonymously but, keep in mind that when doing so, the ability for the Ombuds to facilitate resolution is limited without receiving contact information. Still, if you are more comfortable submitting an anonymous concern, you may do so by completing the Ombuds Service Referral Form. If you decide to include your contact information, the Ombuds will be in touch to initiate communication.
10. If I raise a concern with the Ombuds, who will find out about it?
Communications with the Ombuds are considered privileged. Unless prompted by an exception to confidentiality, the Ombuds would not disclose information that could negatively impact you, your safety, or your standing with the federal government.
11. How does the Ombuds decide what is confidential and what is not?
One of the powers granted to an ombuds is the authority to decide which information, if any, is relayed outside of its office, who that information is shared with, if anyone, and when the information is shared, if at all. While it is crucial that the Ombuds Service allow for and respect confidentiality requests, it is sometimes the case that individuals overlook the potential value in having a question, concern, complaint and/or inquiry of theirs shared, in which case the Ombuds might explore someone’s reasons for requesting confidentiality and the impacts those requests might have. It is also possible that certain information, if not disclosed to the applicable field office, could adversely affect that field office’s ability to institute necessary changes. In those situations, the Ombuds will be transparent about what will or will not be shared and then use appropriate discretion to relay messages accordingly.
12. What is the difference between the Help Desk and the Ombuds Service?
The goal of the Help Desk is to provide technical support and/or information as requested by stakeholders. However, the Help Desk does not resolve complaints or stakeholder coordination issues. When the Help Desk receives inquiries that require neutral facilitation, they refer individuals to the Ombuds Service. Similarly, when the Ombuds receives questions or requests for technical support and/or information, referrals could be made to the Help Desk.
13. Does the Ombuds respond to all inquiries?
Yes, you can expect a response in a prompt and complete manner. In rare circumstances, the Ombuds may exercise discretion on whether or not to act upon a particular concern. If a decision is made that the Ombuds should not be involved, you will still be contacted to explore who might be better suited to address your issue.
14. Does the Ombuds ever decline a referral?
Yes, the Ombuds will decline requests to conduct investigations, overturn OFCCP field office decisions, or gain access to privileged information. At its own discretion, the Ombuds Service may identify other instances when it cannot become involved or, if already involved, may need to recuse itself. In those situations, the Ombuds would explain the recusal and might still be helpful in exploring other alternative resources.
15. How will the Ombuds communicate with me?
The Ombuds Service is staffed within the OFCCP national office, located at the headquarters for the United States Department of Labor in Washington, DC. One-on-one or group conversations may take place by email, in person, by video conference, or by phone. The Ombuds welcomes the communication preferences of others’ and will strive to accommodate.
16. How do I get in touch with the Ombuds?
His name is Marcus Stergio. Feel free to call him at (202) 693-1174 or send an email to email@example.com to schedule a meeting. You may also complete and submit the online Ombuds Service Referral Form to initiate contact. Whichever approach you are most comfortable with is supported by the Ombuds.