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Plain Writing Act Annual Compliance Report — 2015

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 (the Act) requires federal agencies to write "clear Government communication that the public can understand and use." President Obama also emphasized the importance of establishing "a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration" in his January 21, 2009, Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government.
The U.S. Department of Labor (the Department) is committed to complying with the Act. The Department has established a Plain Writing website (www.dol.gov/dol/PlainWriting/) that includes an overview of the Act and its requirements, documents that are covered, and timeframes associated with compliance with the Act.

Plain Language Coordinators

Plain Language Coordinators in each agency within the Department have been identified and their contact information is available on the Department's Plain Writing website. These coordinators are responsible for ensuring each agency's compliance with the Act's requirements and answering questions from the public about their agencies documents or plain writing practices. In addition, general questions about the Department's implementation of the Plain Writing Act can be addressed to the Department's Senior Plain Language Official.

Plain Language Training

In May 2012, the Department began requiring that all new employees take the training within 90-days of joining the Department and that all employees take an on-line plain writing training every three years. By July 31, 2012, over 85 percent of the Department's employees and contractors had taken the training and received a Plain Writing Education and Training Certificate. During calendar year 2015, the Department once again plans to offer all employees on-line plain writing training.

Plain Language Resources

Some agencies within the Department have adopted their own plain writing polices to further the objectives of the Plain Writing Act. For example, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has developed a Style Guide as an easy to use reference for composing correspondence, agency directives, and other written work products in plain language. OFCCP updated its Style Guide last year and made it available to all their employees and contractors.

Institutionalized Practices

The Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) has instituted an internal review process for all outgoing correspondence to ensure clear, plain language is used when communicating to the public. In addition, VETS is in the process of revising its agency Style Guide to incorporate the requirements of the Plain Writing Act. In 2014, DOL sponsored a “Plain Language and the Customer Experience” community of practice event that featured Dr. Annetta Cheek from the Center for Plain Language. The event proved to be so successful that the slide deck used from the presentation was added to DOL’s Customer Service Community of Practice intranet webpage. All DOL employees and contractors have access to the slide deck and can reference it as needed.

To further advance the concept of plain writing into daily DOL activities, a member of the DOL plain writing team also participates in The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN), a group of federal employees from many different agencies and specialties who support the use of clear communication in government writing. (This organization has been in existence since the mid-1990s). PLAIN meets periodically to exchange ideas and members communicate via e-mail to pose questions to each other regarding ways to modify passages in documents so that they provide clear communication to the public. The DOL Plain Writing Implementation Plan requires that at least one member of DOL's plain writing team participates in PLAIN.

In 2014, the Department increased its efforts to ensure that agencies use plain language in public facing documents, were practicable. As a result, the Center for Plain Language’s 2014 assessment of DOL writing samples yielded the highest grades the Department has ever received. The Department plans to sustain last year’s success by having the Plain Language Senior Official to continue to monitor agency plain writing efforts.