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INDUSTRY LIAISON GROUP 2013 NATIONAL CONFERENCE
"RAISING THE GAME, WINNING AT COMPLIANCE"

PREPARED REMARKS BY PATRICIA A. SHIU, DIRECTOR
U.S. Department Of Labor – Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Marriot Downtown Hotel – Indianapolis, Indiana

Good afternoon. Thank you all very much.

Thank you, Alicia and Chad, for that introduction. You and the conference planning team have done an excellent job, and I am pleased to be invited to join you again this year.

OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu addresses the National Industry Liaison Group in Indianapolis, Indiana on July 31, 2013

OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu
addresses the National Industry
Liaison Group in Indianapolis,
Indiana on July 31, 2013

It is good to be here. It is good to be among so many friends.

I especially want to recognize the Industry Liaison Groupís National Chair Valerie Vickers and the entire Board of Directors. I have had the pleasure of working very closely with your leadership team over the past few years as we have sought to advance the shared goals of our two organizations.

This is my fourth consecutive year to participate in this conference. And though I had to join by video last year, I am deeply grateful to the ILG leaders for working closely with my staff to ensure that the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs always has a presence at this important gathering.

It is a tradition we are proud to continue as we begin our 31st year of collaboration, cooperation and partnership.

As you know, the arbitrary federal budget cuts known as the "sequester" have forced many federal agencies, like mine, to cut back on travel and conference participation. However, our commitment to engaging with our regulated community – and, in particular, this community – remains firm.

That is why I am pleased to be joined here today by OFCCPís Midwest Regional Director Bradley Anderson, our Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Michele Hodge, our Deputy Director of Program Operations Marika Litras and my Senior Program Advisor Pam Coukos.

We also have the home team from our Indianapolis District Office led by Lauren Hicks. Could all of the OFCCP staff in the room please stand and be recognized?

Over the next few days, you will have opportunities to hear from these terrific public servants about our activities, initiatives and priorities at OFCCP. But let me first take a moment of personal privilege to thank them – and all of the nearly 800 men and women who work for OFCCP around the country – for their service to our country and their dedication to keeping America´s workplaces safe, fair and free from discrimination.

And finally, I want to specifically recognize Bradley and Lauren for the work they did to help coordinate our participation in this conference.

 


 

We meet at a pivotal moment in our history.

This year, the U.S. Department of Labor marks it centennial anniversary. And as we celebrate 100 years of making workplaces safer, fairer, more productive and more diverse, we are mindful that we do not do this work alone.

We are joined at the federal level by partners in sister agencies like the EEOC and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Together, we are working together in new and unprecedented ways – sharing data, collaborating on cases, conducting joint trainings for our investigators, coordinating on litigation strategies, developing unified messages and establishing programs to educate workers on their rights.

President Obama called on us to come together in order to establish a unified civil rights agenda. And that is exactly what we are doing.

We are also incredibly proud to welcome a new leader to the Labor Department. Earlier this month, Tom Perez was sworn-in as the 36th U.S. Secretary of Labor. His appointment by President Obama underscores the commitment of this administration to uphold and bolster the civil rights of America´s workers.

I had the pleasure of working with Secretary Perez in his previous role as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, and I know him to be a dedicated public servant, whose personal commitment to protecting workers has been a constant thread running throughout his entire career.

Secretary Perez is a strong believer in building and strengthening relationships with employers as a cornerstone to ensuring that workers are treated fairly on the job. During his tenure as Maryland´s Secretary of Labor, Secretary Perez successfully bridged the gap between the state´s prominent business community and its workers. Rather than talk at the state´s business leaders, Secretary Perez earned a reputation for listening to and engaging with them.

On his very first day in his new job, Secretary Perez made it known that promoting job creation and safeguarding workersí rights are neither mutually exclusive nor inherently in conflict. "They must go hand-in-hand," he said. His leadership at the Labor Department is guided by the principle that we must all "look for the win-win solutions that create more opportunity for everyone."

I think that is a fitting way to think about the theme of this year´s ILG conference. As we engage in conversations over the next few days about "Raising the Game" and "Winning at Compliance" I want us to keep in mind that it would be a mistake to start from the premise that the law enforcement function of OFCCP is, in any way, in conflict with the creation, expansion or promotion of jobs.

Yes, OFCCP is first and foremost a worker protection agency. We enforce equal employment opportunity laws and we go after violators.

But the last two letters in OFCCP stand for Compliance Programs. Our worker protection mission was purposefully co-mingled with a commitment to facilitating your success.

That is my vision for OFCCP. We are an agency committed to facilitating success:

  • Success for the workers who just want their fair shot at getting, keeping and succeeding in a good job;
  • Success for government agencies that depend on their contractors to provide a service on time, on budget and with respect for our shared values; and
  • Success for employers who understand that government contracts are profitable, profit sustains business, business feeds economic growth and economic growth depends on harnessing the skills, talents and ingenuity of ALL workers.

You and I know that diverse workplaces are better workplaces. They are fairer workplaces. They are more productive and innovative workplaces.

And studies have shown that they are more profitable workplaces.

Nearly 700 billion in taxpayer dollars are spent on federal contracts every year. Those dollars should never be used to discriminate. Rather, those dollars ought to be used to maximize success – for the businesses that earn them, the government that spends them and the workers who help pay them.

Secretary Perez has made it clear that, as he begins his new role at the Labor Department, his first priority is to "listen and learn." It is a practice I found to be incredibly useful from the time I first met with all of you in 2010. And I am here to tell you that he shares that ethic.

We have much to learn from one another. By working together, we can ensure that the companies which do business with our government – the companies all of you represent – truly embody the values of fairness and equal opportunity.

 


 

This commitment to fairness and opportunity begins with enforcement.

As I have shared with you in the past, strengthening OFCCP´s enforcement activities has been my number one priority in this job.

Since President Obama took office, OFCCP compliance officers have reviewed almost 19,000 federal contractor establishments. Collectively, they employ more than seven-and-a-half million workers.

In the past four-and-a-half years, we have won more than $45 million in financial remedies for 84,000 workers who were affected by discrimination.

And all the while, we seek to make lasting relief – to correct bad employment practices, to fix policies that create barriers to equal opportunity and to get qualified workers into good jobs.

Since 2009, we have negotiated nearly 9,300 potential job offers for workers who were denied their fair shot at employment because of unlawful discrimination.

As always, our goal is to achieve voluntary compliance. And on that front, we continue to do very well. I can report that, in 99.8 percent of our compliance reviews, we either find the establishment being reviewed to be in compliance with the law or are able to achieve voluntary compliance by working together to resolve violations.

I think that´s a pretty impressive record for a regulatory agency like mine. And I think it speaks well for the commitment of employers like you – employers who want to succeed in their non-discrimination and affirmative action efforts.

Success in achieving compliance really hinges on three key factors:

  1. proper prior planning
  2. an organization-wide commitment to equal opportunity; and
  3. accountability and evaluation

That´s why your Affirmative Action Programs are critical.

The AAP is your road map to success. It should be a living document that doesn´t sit on a shelf, but is constantly reviewed, analyzed, referenced and updated. It should be utilized when decisions are being made about recruitment, applicant flow, hiring, firing, placement, promotions and compensation.

A good AAP should be developed in concert with your senior leadership. It should have buy-in from your CEO. And it should reflect a unified commitment to diversity from among the managers and decision-makers in the company.

And the AAP should be a tool for self-evaluation, providing you with clear data and about where you are succeeding and where there remains work to be done.

As you know, a written AAP must be in place within 120 days of a federal contract being signed. So it is troubling to me that, in more than half of OFCCPís scheduled compliance reviews, companies do not have their AAPs ready on time.

When I look at the enforcement data for the past three years, I see that the number of violations under VEVRAA have quadrupled and violations of Section 503 have quintupled. Most of those violations could very likely be resolved if there had been AAPs in place and if those AAPs were followed.

At OFCCP we can help facilitate your success by providing technical assistance on how to develop and implement a good AAP. Use that assistance. Itís free. Itís part of our mission to help you succeed. And, as I have said again and again, there is absolutely, positively no retaliation for any company that comes to us seeking help with compliance.

Just donít wait until we come knocking to ask for help.

 


 

Speaking of when we "come knocking," I want to address a few key issues that keep coming up about the process by which we select contractor establishments for compliance reviews.

First and foremost, we use a scheduling process which complies with the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. There is no targeting of specific companies or establishments. The factors we use to select companies and to order them on our scheduling list must be completely neutral. We have also worked very hard to refine this scheduling process so that, for example, we deal with jurisdictional issues as best we can before the lists are sent to our field offices.

Second, we have continued a tradition of providing Corporate Scheduling Announcement Letters as a courtesy to business establishments that are selected for reviews. The CSALs do not initiate an audit. Rather, they are a notification that the recipient will be the subject of a review at some point during the scheduling cycle. My primary objective in continuing the CSAL practice was to give companies a little extra time, whenever possible, to get their documents in order to comply with the formal scheduling letter when it arrives.

Look, my regional and district staff are always willing to work with companies that have extenuating circumstances and need additional time to respond to a scheduling letter. However, the CSAL is meant to reduce the need for such extensions and should be treated as a notice to – if youíll pardon the pun – start your engines.

I promise thatís the only Indy 500 reference I will make this morning.

Finally, if and when you receive an official scheduling letter… respond!

Contractors under OFCCPís jurisdiction are legally required to submit a response to this letter, including a copy of the AAP, within 30 days. Timeliness is key and denial of access will not be tolerated. As one federal judge put it, "Submission to such lawful investigations is the price of working as a federal contractor."

Please do not delay this process. Comply with the scheduling letter. Prolonging it is a waste of not only of taxpayer money but also of your time and ours.

And it is a surefire way to lose at compliance.

 


 

In addition to "Winning at Compliance," we all have a responsibility to "Raise the Game." And at OFCCP, that means we have been taking a hard look at all of our policies and regulations to figure out where there is room for improvement. That includes getting rid of old, outdated or duplicative directives and promoting policies that move us in the direction of ensuring equal opportunity for all workers.

My vision for OFCCP is not simply to audit, investigate, litigate and conciliate. My vision is to try and figure out how we create lasting change in America´s workplaces. Those workplaces are very different today than they were when the laws that govern employment were written in the 1960s and 1970s.

Government must also change and adapt its rules to reflect the realities of the modern workplace. That is why, in addition to strengthening our enforcement, we are pursuing a robust agenda for regulatory reform.

We are working to strengthen rules around affirmative action for qualified veterans and people with disabilities by setting real metrics for how we measure success. We want to provide you with very clear thresholds against which to measure your affirmative action efforts. And we want to make sure you know exactly what we will be looking for when we conduct a compliance review.

Following a comprehensive and exhaustive process, we will soon publish final rules on both the Vietnam Era Veterans´ Readjustment Assistance Act and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.

And I can promise you that when those rules come out, my staff and I will be ready, able and willing to walk you through the changes and provide expert and totally free technical assistance to help you comply.

We are also in the process of proposing much-needed updates to outdated regulations that deal with sex discrimination and the employment of women and minorities in the construction industry. In the months ahead, we will share with you our proposals on those two topics, and, as always, I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Last month, we marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. I was proud to stand with President Obama on that occasion, as a member of his National Equal Pay Task Force. Together with our colleagues from the White House, the EEOC, the Justice Department and the Office of Personnel Management, we are committed to doing what it takes to close that pay gap once and for all.

That includes our recent announcement to rescind overly restrictive guidelines promulgated under the Bush administration which created arbitrary and artificial barriers to our investigations of pay discrimination.

It also includes our plan to propose a new compensation data collection tool which will better allow us to identify and remedy pay discrimination.

As you all know, closing the pay gap has been a key priority for me since I arrived at OFCCP I 2009. In the last four years, the issue has taken on increasing urgency because we know that closing the pay gap is critical not only for the success of women and minorities, but also their families.

At a time when it is becoming increasingly more common for women to be the primary or sole breadwinners in their homes, closing the wage gap has significant implications for our economic growth and for increasing the purchasing power of American households.

My Senior Program Advisor Pam Coukos will be presenting more about our efforts to address pay discrimination at this conference. So, I wonít steal her thunder. But I want to make sure all of you know that Pam and her staff are developing an in-depth compliance assistance program specifically focused on issues of compensation. This training will include detailed case studies and useful tools to help you win at compliance and raise the game. We expect to roll out this new compliance assistance program in the next year.

Once again, I want to remind all of you: donít wait until 2014 to get started. Evaluating compensation data is an ongoing duty of federal contractors. Make sure this information is reflected in your AAPs. Make sure it is kept updated and that it is used for self-evaluation purposes even when your company is not the subject of a review.

With all of these regulatory efforts, I want you to understand that success for OFCCP and success for federal contractors is about more than just compliance. We all have to raise our game. We need to create a culture where diversity is not merely tolerated, or a result of tokenism, but where it is embraced.

Recently, the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, noted that diversity is the driving factor in his own business decisions. Starbucks faced a backlash from some of its stockholders when Mr. Schultz announced that the company was taking a position in support of marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans. Some people didn´t like that. They didn´t understand why they were suddenly in the business of making political news rather than just lattes.

But Mr. Schultz had a pretty simple response. He said, "the lens we use to make decisions is the lens of our people. We want to embrace diversity."

His position was born out of a commitment to standing up for the people who work for him. It was about showing leadership from the top that acknowledges the reality of who we are and creates aspirations for what we can be.

Building a diverse workforce is critical to success in the 21st century. That is as true for me as it is for you. At OFCCP, 60 percent of our employees are women. More than half are people of color. Among our senior executive service leaders, 70 percent are women and 70 percent of those women are women of color. People with disabilities comprise 22 percent of our workforce. One out of every four OFCCP employees is a veteran, and nearly one-third of those veterans are women.

This didnít happen by accident. It happened because we made diversity a priority. We set goals for ourselves, and we met them. We took steps to distribute our job postings to wide networks, including partners in various community-based organizations. We built relationships with stakeholders to identify qualified candidates for positions in our agency. And we communicated a set of expectations to all managers in the agency that diversity in hiring was a performance measure on which they would be evaluated.

And the result has been that we are better suited to meeting the challenges of the 21st century because we have a culturally competent workforce.

That is how we raised the game.

 


 

In closing, let me just say that contracting with the federal government is a privilege, and with that privilege comes a promise.

The promise is to opening doors of opportunity to all Americans, regardless of gender, race, color, religion, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran.

The American Dream is not exclusive. It is inclusive.

Our job at OFCCP is to protect workers, promote diversity and enforce the laws which have, for nearly half a century, required that every worker get a fair shot at employment and that every contractor play by the same set of rules.

I thank you all for the work each of you do – day in and day out – to create opportunities for economic growth and to put people to work. It´s one of the most important jobs I can think of and I honor you for doing it well.

My team at OFCCP and I are committed to your success. We are invested in your success. And we are here – in Indianapolis and across this great country – to help you win.

Thank you.