On Tuesday, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a new pilot program for discretionary suspension and debarments to “ensure accountability and protect the federal government” from companies that have engaged in inappropriate or illegal conduct. The pilot program will be in effect from April 2019 to April 2020.
The stated purpose of the pilot program is to expedite the processing time on discretionary suspensions and debarment actions from “months to days” with increased efficiency and information sharing based on indictments and convictions. The program also will increase coordination and collaboration with the Office of Inspector General (OIG), including additional information in the OIG’s referrals to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management (OASAM). According to the DOL, this will result in faster decisions.
Typically, discretionary suspensions or debarments make federal contractors no longer eligible to do business with the federal government is involved in things such as fraud, theft or bribery. Discretionary suspensions or debarments can also occur if federal contractors fail to comply with the OFFCP’s Sex Discrimination Final Rule (Final Rule), which includes prohibitions against gender discrimination and sexual harassment as well fair pay practices and equal access to jobs and opportunities.
This new pilot program should serve as a reminder for federal contractors that careful review of its hiring, promotional and pay practices to comply with the Final Rule. Specifically, employers should review and work to correct any deficiencies in their employment practices in the following areas:
- Provide workplace accommodations, such as extra restroom breaks and light duty accommodations, due to an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions;
- Have fair pay practices, including overtime practices;
- Provide equal benefits, including profit-sharing and bonus plans as well as time off from work;
- Have a strong policy against sexual harassment, including robust training;
- Provide equal access to jobs and promotional opportunities;
- Protect transgender employees, including the use of bathrooms, changing rooms, showers, consistent with the gender which the individual identifies; and
- Prohibit discrimination based on gender stereotypes.