Public pensions show uneven progress toward diversity goals

The investment profession is slowly moving away from the stereotype of “pale, male and stale,” as newer and smaller money managers take advantage of opportunities with large public pension funds.

Public pensions are increasingly interested in diversity, seeking to invest their assets with more women-owned and minority-owned firms. But how to how to achieve diversity — and even what it means — remains open for debate, and differing legal frameworks and practical challenges have contributed to uneven progress toward diversity goals.

Pension plans cite a wide range of reasons for improving diversity among their internal staff and external managers, including social responsibility, better returns, growing the ecosystem of potential investment partners, and hedging against over-commitment to an investment class that thinks the same way. While those goals are not universally shared throughout the U.S. yet, California, Illinois, New York, Oregon, Ohio, Michigan, Maryland,
Pennsylvania, Texas, and North Carolina are among the places where pension funds have active diversity outreach programs. So far, pension funds have found willing partners among investment consultants, managers of funds of funds, and advocacy groups devoted to advancing the interests of women- and minority-owned businesses,
California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) CIO Christopher Ailman said at a May Diversity Forum co-hosted by California Public Employees’ Retirement System CalPERS) and CalSTRS.

“People have really realized that groupthink is a problem and you want to diversify away from that,” Ailman said. “Maybe they’re giving us lip service, but some managers seem genuinely interested in trying to break that mold. They have too many people from East Coast Ivy League schools who all think alike…It’s not just a California interest, it’s broadly shared, not just in the U.S.”

Read the full story: Public pensions show uneven progress toward diversity goals

Published by Money Management Report/Pageant Media.

5 Tips For Federal Contractors Facing New Hiring Rules

By Dietrich Knauth

Law360, New York (March 24, 2014, 9:13 PM EDT) — With new rules for contractors’ affirmative action responsibilities taking effect Monday, companies have a lot of work to do to ensure they meet the U.S. Department of Labor’s goals for hiring veterans and people with disabilities, and attorneys are preparing to get their clients in shape for DOL audits.

The DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which audits the nondiscrimination and affirmative action responsibilities of federal contractors, finalized two rules in August that aim to revamp the enforcement of affirmative action goals for veterans and people with disabilities. The game-changing rules require contractors to set hiring goals for veterans and disabled employees, invite job applicants to self-identify as veterans or disabled, compile additional data on hiring decisions, periodically survey their employees for disability status, and keep relevant records for three years.

Keeping up with the regulations, which took effect 180 days after their formal publication in the Federal Register, will likely require significant investments in human resources departments, such as hiring additional staff to conduct outreach efforts and updating online job applications and information technology systems to help capture the newly required hiring data, experts say.

“This is the first time that affirmative action programs for veterans and persons with disabilities have any statistical component,” said Valerie Hoffman, head of the affirmative action and OFCCP compliance practice at Seyfarth Shaw LLP. “This effort to collect data is a major undertaking because of the need to modify applicant tracking systems and human resources information systems. Systems changes don’t happen overnight, and most companies’ IT budgets are already strained — this is a significant undertaking by every contractor.”

Now that the rules are in effect, here are five tips to help employers manage their new responsibilities.

Update your subcontracts and equal employment materials immediately.

Some of the rules’ requirements won’t actually hit home until contractors update their annual affirmative action programs, which could start as late as Jan. 1, 2015, for the many companies that update their plans at the start of a calendar year. But while some companies will have additional time to revamp their hiring, outreach and applicant tracking systems, all contractors must immediately update language used in subcontracts and equal employment opportunity materials.

The rules require contractors to “flow down” the new affirmative action responsibilities to their subcontractors and suppliers who meet certain thresholds of business — $10,000 for the disability rule and $100,000 for the veterans rule. To comply with the rules, all new subcontracts and purchase orders must include a specific paragraph highlighting the veteran and disability hiring responsibilities in bold text.

“If you haven’t yet, inventory all of your internal and external communications that make reference to EEO and make sue that they’re compliant with these new regulations,” said Mickey Silberman, head of the affirmative action compliance and OFCCP practice at Jackson Lewis LLP. “Everywhere that an employer makes references to EEO or affirmative action compliance in internal or external communications, that needs to be reviewed, and in all likelihood, needs to be changed as of this March deadline.”

External communications and subcontracts are particularly important because they leave a paper trail that could get a company into trouble during future OFCCP audits if they don’t include the new references to hiring veterans and people with disabilities, Silberman said.

Companies’ equal opportunity tag lines will also need to be updated immediately. It’s no longer enough to merely state “this company is an equal opportunity employer” — the new rules require specific references to veterans and people with with disabilities, a change that will likely lead to more comprehensive listings in order to ward off misconceptions that only veterans and people with disabilities are protected.

“Now that you’re required to make specific references to veterans and the disabled, do you have to make references to other protected classes?” Silberman said. “Might that indicate, incorrectly, that you’re only extending those protections or that consideration to veterans and the disabled?”

Educate managers and employees about the new rules.

The rules require employers to ask applicants and employees to self-identify as veterans or disabled, and the disability question in particular could cause consternation for employees. The disability regulation requires companies to ask for disability status before a job offer, after a job offer, as well as a survey of employees within a year of the regulation’s start date and an additional employee survey every five years.

“It’s very important for employers to think about how these changed requirements might be perceived or misperceived by applicants and employees,” Silberman said. “Reasonably enough, an applicant or employee can perceive this as an employer being obsessed with their disability, asking them for the same information over and over again.”

Setting the right tone with employees is an important step towards ensuring employee participation in the self-surveys. Since the OFCCP will count the number of employees who self-identify as disabled against the entire company, rather than the portion who participated in surveys, low participation could make a company seem like it has a smaller percentage of employees with disability than it truly does.

“One of the most challenging aspects is for companies to administer this all-employee survey and the communications that are likely to preceed that,” said Alissa Horvitz, a shareholder with Littler Mendelsson. “If a company doesn’t spend a little bit of time explaining why this survey is being taken and why it is required, it’s not going to get a very high response rate.”

Companies should also train their managers to look out for ways to classify employees as disabled even if they don’t self-identify, such as listing employees who seek leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for chronic conditions or employees who seek accommodation for a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Connie Bertram, a partner in Proskauer’s employment group. Those kinds of decisions will be sensitive, and managers should be sure not to create the impression that they are discriminating against such employees, she said.

With the increased focus on employees with disabilities, managers should also be prepared for an uptick in employee requests for a reasonable accommodation of their disabilities, Hoffman said.

“Contractors should do some significant training, especially regarding ensuring that their managers know how to handle the interactive process for people who request a reasonable accommodation,” Hoffman said. “It’s essential that contractors be ready for that and ensure that managers can follow the law.”

Budget time and money for an HR overhaul.

For companies with annual affirmative action plans that won’t be updated for months, it is important to invest the time and money needed to get human resources information systems into shape.

“Some of the biggest that we’re seeing from our clients right now is the obligation to solicit and collect veterans and disability status from applicants and from current employees,” Springer said. “It is a big change to your applicant tracking system and your HRIS system to collect that information and put the necessary controls in place to ensure that that information remains confidential.”

Many contractors use third-party vendors and suppliers for their HR information systems, and those companies are already preparing solutions that will help contractors meet the OFCCP’s data requirements, Bertram said.

“That might ease the burden on some of the contractors,” Bertram said. “You can find some fairly efficient and cost effective vendors to handle applicant tracking, even if you’re a small contractor with limited resources.”

The specifics of the rule have created some kinks that are more expensive to iron out than initially predicted, Springer said. For example, the OFCCP requires a very specific form for employees to self-identify as disabled and requires that any electronic survey of employees use a form that looks exactly like the one provided by OFCCP and requires that employees check the boxed for disabled, not disabled, or no answer on the same place in the electronic form as it would be on a printed form — a requirement that isn’t quite so easy to drop into existing electronic systems, she said.

“It’s very difficult to recreate that form exactly and have that technology so that an applicant that can check the box that’s in that form,” Springer said.  “In some ways, that’s a win of form over substance, unfortunately.”

Still, for all the concerns about the burden of the rules, companies with good lawyers should be able to navigate the new regulations without too much difficulty, Bertram said.

“I think there’s been a lot of unnecessary hysteria by some of the outside counsel and outside sources,” Bertram said. “I think for a company that’s already in compliance with existing requirements, this is not a Herculean task. It’s [achievable] as long as you take it step by step and work with experienced outside counsel.”

Get a head start on evaluating your recruitment sources.

While companies won’t be audited under the new rules until they revamp their annual affirmative action programs, they should start laying the groundwork for audits that focus more and more on the effectiveness of their outreach efforts. Based on OFCCP scrutiny and a simple desire to ensure that they aren’t throwing good money away, companies should examine their outreach and advertising efforts to see which ones actually net qualified job applicants.

“In the past employers typically considered success to be the ‘push out’ element of outreach, simply getting your jobs out there,” Silberman said. “What most employers have not thought of traditionally, and what OFCCP is compelling them to think about differently, is the ‘pull in’ aspect of outreach. You might have 20 recruitment sources, but if 10 of them don’t send you any applicants, those are not effective recruitment sources.”

The OFCCP focus on effectiveness could carry some short-term research and assessment costs but should help companies improve their affirmative action hiring in the long run, Silberman said.

“The silver lining that can come out of this requirement is that employers will have a better handle than ever before on their return on investment regarding their outreach and recruiting efforts,” Silberman said.

Keep in touch with OFCCP.

OFCCP, recognizing the game-changing nature of the new rules, has offered contractors help in complying with the regulations. It has posted a series of Frequently Asked Questions on its website to address common concerns about the rules and created a new directory of government and nonprofit groups that can serve as possible sources of referrals for veterans and disabled job applicants.

The OFCCP recently told contractors in an FAQ that their subcontracts and purchase orders can combine the new required text for the veteran and disability rules, reducing the chance that companies would waste time and paper printing separate clauses that contain duplicative language, for example.

“There’s quite a bit of vagueness in the regulations and how they’re being interpreted, so the OFCCP is using FAQs to address some of the questions that contractors have,” said Rebecca Springer, a counsel in Crowell & Moring LLP’s labor and employment group. “The downside is that it’s just an FAQ. It’s not written into the regulation, and the OFCCP could change those FAQs at any time.”

The OFCCP’s directory of possible recruitment sources, while helpful, should not be seen as the final word, Springer said. The information collected by OFCCP may be out of date or incomplete, and the agency will likely want to see more proactive efforts by contractors, she said.

Published by Law360

Recent Rulings Back OFCCP’s Deep-Digging Audits

By Dietrich Knauth

Law360, New York (September 6, 2012, 8:48 PM EDT) — Recent court cases have rubber-stamped more aggressive data requests made by the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs during audits of contractors’ affirmative-action programs, making it more difficult for companies to fight requests that they feel are unduly burdensome or irrelevant, experts say.

Contractors were handed losses in United Space Alliance LLC v. Solis — decided in Washington federal court in November — and in an OFCCP Administrative Review Board decision involving Frito-Lay Inc. in May. In both cases, contractors had resisted OFCCP data requests during audits of their compliance with affirmative action and nondiscrimination rules, and both the D.C. federal court and the ARB came down firmly on the side of the OFCCP.

Jeffrey Norris of the Equal Employment Advisory Council, speaking at the 2012 National Industrial Liason Group meeting between OFCCP regulators and contractors, said the decisions gave the OFCCP open-ended authority to ask “virtually anything” in compliance audits.

“It’s going to be very difficult to argue that OFCCP is not entitled to data that it asks for,” Norris said. “Instead, you’ll be forced to argue that the information isn’t relevant.”

Both United Space and Frito-Lay involved audits over potential pay disparities between male and female employees, which has been a particular focus for the OFCCP under President Barack Obama. The OFCCP has recently proposed rules that would give it more authority to ask for compensation data from contractors and has delved more deeply into pay disparity during its compliance audits.

United Space, which is owned by Lockheed Martin Corp. and The Boeing Co., sued to fight a sex discrimination audit by the OFCCP, which ordered the company to provide detailed pay records within 30 days or face termination of its current government contracts and face ineligibility for future procurements. According to the DOL, United Space holds contracts with NASA that are worth at least $8 billion.

While United Space claimed that initial data provided to the OFCCP had met the department’s initial tests for pay fairness and that a demand for further documents and an inspection was unfair and intrusive, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth concluded that the OFCCP had full authority to perform other analyses to determine whether pay discrimination existed and to base document requests on those other tests.

In his order, Judge Lambert said he preferred United Space’s interpretation of OFCCP’s regulatory authority, but he ruled that courts must give considerable deference to agency interpretations of their own regulations as long as they are not plainly erroneous.

“Submission to such lawful investigations is the price of working as a federal contractor,” Lamberth wrote.

OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu has said that the decision will ensure that her office has the tools it needs to protect workers from discrimination, but contractors hoping for a legal check on the OFCCP’s increasingly aggressive audits were disappointed by the result.

“United Space is a disaster for the contractor community,” said David Fortney, co-founder of Fortney & Scott LLC.

The Frito-Lay case, which the contractor has appealed in Texas federal court, also has the potential to limit contractors’ ability to push back against data requests, according to Fortney and John Fox of Fox Wang Morgan PC.

Frito-Lay actually won the first round of litigation in its dispute with the OFCCP, when a U.S. Department of Labor administrative law judge agreed that the agency had unlawfully expanded the scope of a pay disparity investigation by trying to reach back for another two years of pay records long after it began its initial review. But the DOL’s Administrative Review Board, the highest appeals body within the agency, reversed the decision in May, ruling that the OFCCP had regulatory authority to request data from years before and after the period it initially began auditing.

With the Frito-Lay decision, the ARB showed that it had transitioned from a neutral body willing to take a skeptical look at OFCCP practices to one firmly in OFCCP’s favor, Fox said. The decision contributes to contractors’ complaints of being “bullied” in OFCCP audits, he added.

In looking for recent cases that contractors could use to defend against audit requests, Fortney said that contractors could take some heart in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this year in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham.

The Dukes ruling, which shot down a discrimination suit brought on behalf of a nationwide class of 1.5 million female Wal-Mart employees, could help contractors defend themselves when OFCCP tries to establish a pattern and practice of discrimination, Fortney said. The Supreme Court’s focus on the influence and discretion of local managers in pay and promotions decisions could be brought up as a shield against OFCCP attempts to find discrimination patterns by pooling data from several locations and divisions within a contractor company.

And the Christopher decision — in which the Supreme Court ruled that pharmacecutical sales representatives are outside employees and thus exempt from federal overtime pay requirements — was sharply critical of the DOL’s attempt to informally reinterpret ambiguous regulations, both in the majority and dissenting opinions. While the DOL cited its own previous court filings to argue that drug representatives were not exempt, the position was a change from a decades-long policy of allowing drug companies to classify the reps as exempt, creating an “unfair surprise” for an industry that had not been given notice or a chance to comment on the new interpretation.

That rationale could be used against OFCCP during some of its audits, preventing the agency from greatly pushing the boundaries of its audit authority or of relying on posthoc rationalizations of its requests, according to Fortney. Indeed, in its appeal to the Texas federal court, Frito-Lay argues that the OFCCP’s tactics were a “marked departure from how the agency has historically interpreted its regulations and conducted compliance evaluations.”

Despite those defenses, contractors still must deal with an aggressive OFCCP, and the United Space and Frito-Lay cases could have contractors facing an uphill battle against expansive data requests during audits, particularly with increased pressure on the OFCCP to get settlements in pay disparity cases.

“There’s a long haul to get litigation relief if the Obama administration is re-elected,” Fox said.

Published by Law360

OFCCP’s Regulatory Agenda Has Contractors Seething

By Dietrich Knauth

Law360, New York (September 5, 2012, 5:52 PM EDT) — An ambitious but stalled effort to revamp affirmative action rules for contractors has put President Barack Obama’s Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs at loggerheads with federal contractors, and the worsening relationship has bogged down audits and added to the financial strain on both private companies and the agency.

Obama’s OFCCP has proposed 10 major rule changes — far more than the four changes the regulator pushed during the Bush administration — that include widely criticized new rules aimed at boosting affirmative action hires of veterans and disabled workers, and a revised audit policy that seeks more detailed data on employee compensation. But contractors say the regulatory overload and the OFCCP’s combative attitude have hindered real progress.

The disconnect between the regulator and government contractors was on display at the 2012 National Industrial Liaison Group conference in Hawaii, where OFCCP officials including Director Patricia Shiu and Policy Director Debra Carr spoke via teleconference to companies about proposed and pending regulations.

The distance was more than simply physical — while Carr and Shiu both emphasized the importance of communication and outreach, contractors at the conference said they felt ignored, bullied or even lied to by the OFCCP.

“I’ve never seen so much acrimony,” said John Fox of Fox Wang & Morgan PC, who added that the OFCCP had put itself on “war footing” with contractors. “I’ve frankly never seen the contractor community so active and mobilized against a common threat.”

At the ILG conference, Fox characterized the OFCCP as a “broken” agency, and one company representative raised the possibility of “civil disobedience” as a corrective against what he saw as agency overreach during audits.

Valerie Hoffman, head of Seyfarth Shaw LLP’s OFCCP and affirmative action compliance group, said a lack of private sector experience within the OFCCP and the agency’s failure to reach out to contractors had led it to greatly underestimate the costs of compliance with its proposed rules. And the sheer number of proposed reforms has helped slow the pace with which new regulations are enacted, and left contractors nervous and uncertain about delayed changes, she said.

“This administration has the most ambitious regulatory agenda of any recent administration,” Hoffman said. “It looks like they’ve bitten off more than they can chew, and the contractor community is rightly concerned about the breadth of the new regulations and the burdens associated with them.”

The OFCCP has also pursued audits more aggressively than it did during the Bush administration, when it would commonly shut down audits if it didn’t find systematic discrimination that affected 10 or more employees, according to David Cohen of DCI Consulting. Cohen dates the change in attitude to 2010, when the OFCCP renamed its approach from Active Case Management to Active Case Enforcement.

“And OFCCP is wondering why we’re all feeling so anxious?” Cohen said. “I call it the ‘No Lawyer Left Behind Act,’” he said of the OFCCP’s package of proposed reforms.

Making matters worse for both OFCCP and the contractors it oversees, data from the OFCCP’s public enforcement database shows that the OFCCP is burying itself in technical violations that require reporting and burden both the agency and contractors, without bringing any settlement money back to OFCCP, Cohen said.

While the number of audits that resulted in financial remedies rose slightly between 2004 to 2011, from 1.12 percent of audits to 2.5 percent, the percentage of audits that ended in conciliation agreements, without payment to OFCCP or individuals, rose much more sharply, from 5.25 percent to 24.9 percent.

Carr acknowledged that federal budget pressures are weighing on the agency, saying she’s “doing more with less,” and estimating the number of employees in the policy office as “in the mid-20s.”

Fox said the OFCCP is “starving to death” for lack of funds and argued that Carr needs three times as many employees to get the regulations right.

“She can’t do a big job like that with 20 people,” Fox said. “No one can.”

Near the close of the ILG conference, Fox suggested that contractors step up and do the OFCCP’s work for it, writing proposed regulations themselves and submitting them to OFCCP for editing. Everyone agrees that the regulations are out of date, he said, citing the OFCCP’s obsolete sex discrimination rules that don’t even allow the agency to prevent contractors from firing women who become pregnant.

“OFCCP is broken. We all know that,” Fox said, saying contractors should not only write rules, but lend managers to the OFCCP to give guidance and assistance. “Don’t whine any more; just do it. It’s a classic partnership — you fill in where they’re weak, and they fill in where you’re strong.”

Hoffman called Fox’s proposal interesting but said most contractors are “overwhelmed” with their own responsibilities and would likely have few resources to devote to assisting the OFCCP’s policymaking. Sandy Zeigler, a retired OFCCP regional director, added that it would be tough to convince contractors to go through the effort and expense of rewriting regulations without any guarantee that the OFCCP would listen.

Zeigler said the OFCCP should listen more to contractors, rather than “regulate without even thinking about it.”

The agency’s plan to have contractors give veterans and disabled applicants written letters of denial when they are not hired, including a reminder that they are protected classes that can sue for discriminatory hiring practices, was one example of a poorly thought-out requirement Zeigler cited. The change would create recordkeeping burdens, while encouraging contractors to keep the denial letters as bland and uninformative as possible to prevent applicants from getting ideas for lawsuits.

“You’re going to send out a lot of pabulum to a lot of people. That’s a waste of your time, that’s a waste of paper,” Zeigler said. “Why regulate to have a bland statement like that?”

The new recordkeeping burdens and a “gotcha” mentality that focuses on technical violations during audits has damaged the relationship between the agency and federal contractors, and the hostile environment can distract from affirmative action programs that actually work, Zeigler said.

“I don’t want to civil rights to be hurt by people who are intending to help it,” Zeigler said.

Published by Law360

With New Rules In Limbo, OFCCP Ramps Up Vet Hiring Push

By Dietrich Knauth

Law360, New York (August 31, 2012, 6:11 PM EDT) — In lieu of new veterans hiring rules that have stalled during an ambitious regulatory push in the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the government is leaning on audits and more aggressive interpretations of current regulations to support its affirmative action policies, experts said.

The OFCCP has proposed new affirmative action rules for veterans that would require contractors to track those who apply for jobs and write reports explaining decisions not to hire protected veterans. But a regulatory logjam in the OFCCP has put the proposed regulation more than nine months behind schedule, and many experts wonder if the rules will be finalized before a November election that could change the OFCCP’s makeup regardless of whether there is a change in the White House.

In the meantime, the OFCCP is using audits to take a much harder look at contractors’ good-faith efforts at veterans outreach; expecting contractors to check back and evaluate the results of those efforts; and demanding information about how many applicants were referred by a particular job board or organization, how many applicants were interviewed and how many were hired.

“We’ve seen these changes over the last 18 months, and the changes are massive,” Mickey Silberman, head of the affirmative action and OFCCP practice at Jackson Lewis LLP, said. “OFCCP’s approach to good-faith efforts has changed in a fundamental way.”

Employers who appear to be going through the motions will face greater scrutiny during OFCCP audits, and the agency will issue technical violations to contractors that are found deficient in either outreach or recordkeeping, according to Silberman, who spoke about the issue during the 2012 Industrial Liaison Group meeting. To protect themselves, contractors should make more of an effort to track the number and quality of applicants referred by recruitment sources and stop using ineffective recruitment sources, Silberman said.

“It’s not about getting through the audit. The goal is to increase veterans’ employment,” Silberman said. “What’s the point of good-faith efforts if you don’t monitor their effectiveness?”

The OFCCP is focusing its efforts on affirmative action and applicants who are not hired in part because it is rarely able to substantiate claims of discrimination against veterans or disabled workers who have been hired, according to David Cohen of the Center for Corporate Equality.

OFCCP data shows that the agency has alleged discrimination against veteran or disabled workers just three times during 22,000 compliance evaluations conducted since 2007, Cohen said. And in 871 investigations initiated since 2004 as a result of disabled or veteran workers complaining to the OFCCP, it identified just 60 violations, he added.

In response to the OFCCP’s more aggressive audits, contractors should make efforts to improve their outreach to veterans, but they shouldn’t try to anticipate the stalled regulations and start asking applicants whether or not they are veterans, according to Jennifer Seda, an attorney at Jackson Lewis. Employers have no obligation to ask, and if they do, they could open themselves up to OFCCP scrutiny if they do not hire or interview veteran applicants.

“Until the regulations are passed, please don’t ask your applicants if they are veterans,” Seda said.

While Silberman and Seda both recommended that contractors do more to evaluate the results of their outreach efforts, they also said contractors should push back against another OFCCP attempt to use current regulations on behalf of veterans. The agency has adopted a more aggressive interpretation of a current rule that requires contractors to undertake a “thorough and systematic consideration” of “known veterans” for all positions, including new hires, promotions and retraining opportunities.

Even if no veterans apply for a position, the OFCCP has taken the position that contractors should look internally at their veteran employees, as well as applicants for other positions, to see if they are qualified and interested, which would put a large burden on some contractors and give veterans a kind of preferential treatment that runs counter to the philosophy of equal employment opportunity, Silberman said. Contractors should consider fighting the OFCCP on the issue — even if the legal fight costs more than a settlement — because it’s a fight they can win, he said.

“The EEO lawyers have a pretty good sense that this interpretation makes people uncomfortable, and it should,” Silberman said.

The new audit policies are, at least temporarily, taking the place of the proposed new rules that would require contractors to set hiring goals for veterans; compile additional data on hiring decisions, including reports to explain why qualified veterans not hired; and keep relevant records for five years. Contractors and their advocates, including attorneys with Littler Mendelson PC, the Association of General Contractors and the Equal Employment Advisory Council, argue that the rule creates enormous additional burdens on employers while not significantly increasing veterans’ rights or opportunities for employment.

“These regulations are not going to create revenue-generating jobs for veterans. They are not going to level the playing field for qualified veterans and ensure equal access,” Littler Mendelson said in response to the veterans rule. “They are going to create layers upon layers of overhead for companies ill-prepared to absorb these costs in the current economy.”

But despite contractors’ concerns about the proposed veterans rule, it is the most likely of several pending OFCCP regulatory changes to be finalized before the election, because of political support for veterans affirmative action. While other pending rules — including a proposal that would require contractors to work towards a goal of hiring disabled workers in 7 percent of its jobs — would likely be scrapped if President Barack Obama is not re-elected, the veterans rules have a chance to survive even if Mitt Romney becomes president, according to Silberman. And even if Romney wins, Obama’s OFCCP could still push them out as midnight regulations, he said.

“For all the proposals, they’d like to have something to show for it,” Silberman said. “This should have been an easy one. Everybody wins, and the administration gets to trumpet the fact that they’re helping veterans.”

Published by Law360