Federal Contractors

According to the Department of Labor, a “Federal contract” is any agreement between a department or agency of the Federal Government and any person for the purchase, sale, or use of goods or services.  Certain federal contracts are subject to specific labor laws; some of which provide greater rights for the workers of federal contractors, as compared to private sector employees. These laws are enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The following FAQs provide a brief over view of some of the additional rights and remedies available to employees of federal contractors.

As an employee of a federal contractor, am I protected from discrimination in the workplace?
Yes, in most cases.

Executive Order 11246 forbids federal contractors (who do over $10,000 in government business per year) from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, prohibits federal contractors from discriminating in employment decisions based on disability.

The affirmative action provisions of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act prohibit federal contractors from discrimination in employment decisions based on protected veteran status.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFFCP) ensure federal contractors are in compliance with these provisions. See their Workplace Rights flyer for more information on these protections, and how to file a complaint.

Is it true that federal contractors are required to take affirmative action to hire disabled individuals?

Yes, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, not only prohibits federal contractors from discriminating in employment decisions based on disability, but actually requires federal contractors and subcontractors with government contracts in excess of $10,000 to take affirmative action to recruit, employ, train, and promote qualified individuals with disabilities.

For more information on Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, see this fact sheet from the OFCCP.

Is it true that federal contractors are required to take affirmative action to hire veterans?

Yes, in regards to veterans with protected status. Veterans have protected status if they are disabled or have recently separated from the armed forces (this is defined as a three-year period beginning from the date of discharge or release from active duty). The affirmative action provisions of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act require federal contractors to take affirmative action to recruit, employ, and promote these veterans.

As an employee of a federal contractor, am I entitled to sick leave?

Soon, you will be! On Labor Day, September 7, 2015, President Obama announced an executive order establishing paid sick leave for federal contractors. The order requires federal contractors to provide their employees with 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, subject to a cap of 7 days (56 hours) of paid sick leave per year beginning January 1, 2017.

What is pay transparency and what are the related rules for federal contractors?

In its most basic sense, pay transparency is the ability to know how much your co-workers are being paid. It can be a valuable tool in negotiating a fair salary and act as an important check on discrimination in the workplace. In 2014, President Obama issued Executive Order 13665 promoting pay transparency in federal contracts. On September 11, 2015, the Department of Labor issued a Final Rule implementing that order; thus the order took effect on January 11, 2016. This order protects employees of federal contractors from discrimination based on compensation inquiries, discussions, or disclosures. The final rule incorporated the nondiscrimination provision into the EOC (Equal Opportunity Clause) governing federal contracts. However, if the worker who is disclosing pay discrepancies with other coworkers is someone who handles pay data as part of their essential job functions, ie: payroll manager and other coworkers do not have access to this information, this behavior is not protected.  Thus a contractor can defend against a discrimination claim for a negative employment action with this “essential job functions” defense.  However, such an employee is protected from discrimination if they disclose pay information in response to a formal complaint, charge or investigation, or if disclosure is consistent with contractor’s legal duty to provide information. Additionally, an employee whose essential job functions includes handling undisclosed pay data and notices a pay discrepancy can disclose this to their manager or through the employer’s formal complaint process.

Additionally, federal contractors are required to notify their employees of their rights under this pay transparency rule.  The rule requires federal contractors to incorporate pay transparency non-discrimination provision into employee handbooks or manuals, and the information must be posted in either on the employer’s website or in a place on the employer’s premises that is easily seen by employees.  This is an additional posting requirement to posting the “EEO (equal employment opportunity) is the law” poster and its supplement.  All 3 should be posted in the workplace.  Furthermore, the EOC clause, which now includes the non-discrimination provision, should be included in federal contractor contracts or purchase orders either by reference or in its entirety.

For more information on this rule see the OFFCP pay transparency fact sheet.

How does the enforcement of my rights differ as an employee of a federal contractor?

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) is the enforcement agency for labor rules affecting federal contractors. Thus, if you work for a federal contractor and think your rights have been violated you should file a complaint with the OFCCP. You can start with the Department of Labor’s OFCCP How to File a Complaint page.

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