Is Your Organization Required to Have an Affirmative Action Plan?

As calendar year 2009 draws to a close, employers who do business with the federal government should examine whether they are required to have an annual affirmative action plan (“AAP”), and, if so, whether it is up to date. Executive Order 11246 (“EO 11246”) requires federal contractors and subcontractors who have 50 or more employees and at least one contract worth more than $50,000 to have an affirmative action plan, to update that plan annually, and to keep and analyze a wide variety of employment data during each plan year. Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 create additional affirmative action plan obligations related to veterans and individuals with disabilities. A covered contractor’s failure to satisfy its AAP obligations is typically revealed through an audit by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”). OFCCP is part of the United States Department of Labor and is charged with enforcing EO 11246. OFCCP selects contractors for audit using its Federal Contractor Selection System, which utilizes a variety of neutral criteria. The ultimate sanction for failing to comply with AAP obligations is debarment from federal contracts.

What contracts are covered by EO 11246? In general, a covered contract is one whereby the contractor agrees to supply goods or services to a federal administrative agency or department. Special rules apply to banks and construction contractors. A subcontract is covered if the subcontractor furnishes supplies, services or property necessary for the performance of any one or more covered primary contracts, or if the subcontractor agrees to perform any portion of the covered contractor’s obligations to the government. Generally speaking, receipt of some form of federal financial assistance does not create a covered contract. However, employers should examine the terms of any federal agreements to ensure that the agreement itself does not require an affirmative action plan.

If you are required to have an affirmative action plan, the plan, or separate plans, must cover each of your establishments, even if only one establishment has the covered contract. OFCCP defines an establishment as a facility which produces goods or services such as a factory, office, store or mine. Although it is clear that all of a contractor’s establishments must have a plan even when only one has a federal contract, questions related to when a parent or subsidiary must have a plan simply because a related corporate entity has a covered contract can be more difficult to answer. Whether some or all of the entities must have an AAP turns on whether the corporate entities are truly separate, a question that is answered using a multifactor test. The most important factor is common control of labor and employee relations.