Last week, Corrie Mitchell, our Senior Community Partners Manager, and I braved the cold blustery weather to attend OFCCP's Veteran Outreach Event held in Chicago, IL. The gathering was organized in commemoration of Veterans Day, to share key initiatives in advancing veteran employment, and to shed light on the VEVRAA Focused Reviews contained in the most recent CSAL List released by OFCCP.
Eric Asmussen, the Regional Veterans’ Employment Coordinator for the Veterans Employment Training Service (VETS) kicked off the event, sharing key statistics on veteran employment. Veteran unemployment is at an all-time low – at 3.5% nationwide, making it even more challenging for employers to recruit and hire veterans. In addition, the number of qualified individuals being admitted into the military ranks is also declining, and the number of veterans as a percentage of the workforce has been decreasing as well. All this behooves employers, especially federal contractors, to find creative and effective ways to source veteran talent. Eric also shared some best practices with the audience. Did you know that Amazon guarantees an interview for every veteran who applies to any of their jobs? If that veteran is not hired, Amazon also provides a referral to another company that may have an open position that would be a better fit. Some employers also make up the difference in pay if they have an employee who gets deployed.
Eric also touched on the new focus on Military Spouses, who are covered under OFCCP's new Directive 2020-01, "Spouses of Protected Veterans." Under 41 CFR §60‐300.21(e), it is "unlawful for a federal contractor to discriminate in employment on the basis of veteran status against a qualified individual who the contractor knows to be the spouse of a protected veteran." Information he shared about the unemployment rate for military spouses, which currently stands at a staggering 16%, is very alarming and raises a call to action.
OFCCP's presentation, which followed next, started with an overview of the VEVRAA regulation, who is covered, and the obligations of federal contractors, before diving into the main highlight of the event: VEVRAA Focused Reviews.
Michael Thomas and Jamayan Watkins, Chicago District Director and Assistant District Director, respectively, began with an update that the Chicago District office is still working on scheduling 140 compliance evaluations from the March 2019 CSAL List, consisting of establishment compliance reviews, compliance checks, and Section 503 Focused Reviews. As such, any VEVRAA Focused Reviews for their district will be scheduled only after these have been scheduled. This means it may be a while before federal contractors in IL receive the VEVRAA Focused Review Scheduling Letter.
Here are some of the items they shared on what OFCCP will look at in a VEVRAA Focused Review and what contractors can do to prepare:
- Do they have an acceptable written AAP for Veterans?
- Is it a living document that is being implemented and updated annually?
- Are they collecting personnel activity data on applicants and hires, promotions, terminations, and compensation?
- Do they have the Equal Employment Opportunity, EEO supplement, and Pay Transparency notices posted in a place that is easily accessible to applicants and employees?
- Do they have the Equal Opportunity Clause included in covered subcontracts and purchase orders?
- Do they have the EEO tagline in their job advertisements?
- Do they have documentation showing they are providing reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities and disabled veterans?
- Do they have documentation showing that they are listing their job openings with the local Employment Services Delivery System?
- Are they inviting applicants and employees to self-identify?
- Are they setting a hiring benchmark on an annual basis?
- Are they conducting outreach and recruitment of protected veterans?
- Are they assessing the effectiveness of their outreach on an annual basis?
- Are they collecting and analyzing data on veteran applicants and hires?
- Are they evaluating their personnel processes?
- Are they evaluating the physical and mental qualifications of their jobs on a regular basis?
During the Q&A, OFCCP reiterated that every Focused Review will include an onsite, which they would like to see scheduled within 30-45 days from the start of the audit. The duration of the onsite can range from a few hours to a week, depending on what questions OFCCP might have. Once they receive the AAP and supporting documents from the contractor, they will develop a list of questions and areas they want to look into, based on the information provided. The areas of focus vary on a case-by-case basis and dependent on what they see in the data submitted. Some cases may elicit few questions resulting in an onsite that may last only a few hours, while some cases would require more time. Sample questions they might ask employees and managers include whether or not they were invited to self-identify, do they know how to request for accommodations, are mandatory notices posted in places that they can access, and do they have access to opportunities for training, among others.
At the moment, the final VEVRAA scheduling letter has yet to be approved and published, but in the meantime, the above questions would help contractors scheduled for the VEVRAA Focused Review start gathering the information and documentation they need to provide in the audit.