As 2011 comes to a close many HR departments are thinking about their affirmative action plans (AAP) and pulling together documentation for federal and state agencies detailing recruitment efforts that have been made to ensure that good faith efforts have been made to assure that equal opportunity is present in all aspects of employment.
A little background on how AAP plans work and who is required to create and follow one: Since 1965, federal contractors and federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors with $10,000 or more in government contracts are required by Presidential Executive Order 11246 to comply with the equal employment opportunity (EEO) and affirmative action provisions of the contract(s) they have signed with government entities. What this order boils down to is that employers that meet the above criteria are prohibited from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It also means these companies have to take affirmative action in all aspects of employment (Learn more from the Department of Labor (DOL) website.
The executive order also requires government contractors with 50 or more employees and $50,000 or more in government contracts to develop and maintain a written affirmative action program for each of their establishments. Many states also require that contractors develop an affirmative action plan and that plan may be more detailed than what the federal government requires (be sure to check your state Department of Labor’s website for details).
The purpose of the written affirmative action plan is to help contractors identify and analyze potential problems in the participation and utilization of women and minorities in their workforce. The plan should include expanded efforts in outreach and recruitment to help create a workforce that mirrors the demographics of the area in which you do business. A sample affirmative action plan can be found on the DOL’s website: http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/pdf/sampleaap.pdf.
The federal government created the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP) to monitor and enforce these contract provisions. During the past few years the federal government has invested in the OFFCCP, allowing the agency to hire more investigators, which mean audits are on the rise. Having recently been involved in such an audit, I can attest to the fact that being proactive and prepared is the only way you will be able to get through the audit with minimal sleepless nights. Fortunately, I have a great team working with me to help prepare the AAP and submit those documentations. Additionally, my company firmly believes in allowing its recruiters to spend time and effort in activities that do not have an immediate reward with the hire of an individual. An OFCCP audit is not just about how many people you have hired and their demographic data, it is about the efforts and steps you have taken to boost your numbers so your workforce reflects the general demographics of the place where you conduct business.
Some of the steps I have implemented in an effort to build a diverse workforce have included:
- Presentations at high schools to introduce the world of construction to students of all genders and ethnic backgrounds.
- Presentations to women’s education organizations that deliver learning opportunities to middle and high school-aged girls interested in engineering and sciences.
- Recruiting at local and regional Job Corps centers (www.jobcorps.gov). Job Corps is a free education and training program targeting young people 16 years of age who qualify as low income that helps them learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED and keep a good job. It offers education in a variety of career fields.
- Attend college career fairs at campuses whose demographics include a large number of women and minorities - even when we are not hiring.
- Connecting with local Department of Labor workforce centers to educate the staff about what type of work my organization does so they can better identify individuals who would fit into the culture of the company.
- Developing and maintaining a list of agencies and organizations that support women and minorities and using this list to advertise employment opportunities.
- Volunteering on industry association boards focusing on creating developmental opportunities to prepare students for work in our industry (i.e. National Association of Women in Construction or the Association of Building Contractors).
- Volunteering on educational advisory boards to help shape what educational institutions focus their time and energies on so the next generation of workers have the skills you need.
During my OFCCP audit I was fortunate enough to have the documentation to prove all of these efforts took place. As a recruiter you should be spending some time whenever you post a position (no matter if it is on Craigslist, Monster or your state DOL) saving a copy of that posting and keeping a log of where you have posted what. When it comes time to submit your AAP or just report to operations on your efforts to fill openings, it will take no time at all. Any presentations you give should be documented on your calendar with the date, time, audience, name of organization, etc. Each presentation builds your talent pool and helps your organization prove its good faith efforts.
So, do yourself and your organization a favor and become familiar with AAPs, follow news of what the OFCCP is up to on Twitter and track what regulations the DOL (both federal and state) are proposing. Know what they look for when auditing and show them your efforts to have a balanced workforce.