National Association of Government Contractors

Labor Dispute Settlements Hit All-Time High

Federal contractors paid out a record $23 million in the past fiscal year to settle workplace discrimination charges with the Labor Department, according to government data.

Since last October, the DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has settled hiring and pay discrimination claims with more than three dozen companies, including Bank of America, B&H Foto, International Paper, KPMG, LabCorp, Leidos, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Palantir Technologies, Splunk, and State Street. The total figure is over $23.1 million, without including the agency's settlement with Qualcomm, which was tied to a $19.5 million private class action settlement.

The agency's record intake comes as the number of audits it conducts and closes has dropped in the wake of an expanded enforcement approach adopted under the Obama administration that focuses on "deep dive" contractor reviews, especially into companies' pay practices. The office regularly audits roughly 1 percent to 2 percent of about 200,000 contractor establishments annually for workplace affirmative action and nondiscrimination compliance.

The current total more than doubles the settlement dollars recovered by the OFCCP in fiscal year 2016, when it tallied about $10.5 million in back pay and interest for applicants and employees who allegedly experienced discrimination. It's also about $6 million higher than the agency's previous record high of $17.1 million in fiscal 2008, the last full year of the George W. Bush administration.

It's possible that the $23.1 million total could grow even higher, as the office has yet to officially release its final enforcement numbers for fiscal 2017, the transition year between the Obama and Trump administrations.

The OFCCP, the subject of discussions of possible merger with another civil rights agency and faces a potential budget cut, still awaits political leadership in its national office.

The Trump administration could change the office's enforcement policies and procedures going forward. But some stakeholders believe the agency will continue to focus on pay discrimination.

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