Assessing Personnel Processes
Assessing personnel processes is important for federal contractors and subcontractors. In recent years, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has undertaken several initiatives in an attempt to come in contact with more federal contractors and subcontractors. One way OFCCP is attempting to do so is by conducting reviews focused on specific parts of affirmative action regulations. So far, the agency has announced or has scheduled 1,000 reviews that are focused on the regulations for individuals with disabilities and an additional 500 reviews on the the regulations for protected veterans.
The Requirement to Review Personnel Processes
One of the areas where OFCCP has shown specific interest is the review of personnel processes. These reviews are required of federal contractors and subcontractors in both the regulations for individuals with disabilities and protected veterans. Though these regulations come from two separate laws, the language regarding these requirements is almost parallel. In general, federal contracts are required to do the following:
- Ensure that personnel processes provide for careful, thorough, and systematic consideration of the job qualifications of applicants and employees who are known protected veterans or individuals with disabilities
- Ensure that personnel processes do not stereotype protected veterans or individuals with disabilities in a manner which limits their access to all jobs for which they are qualified
- Periodically review processes and make any necessary modifications to ensure the above obligations are carried out
For protected veterans, organizations “shall ensure that when a protected veteran is considered for employment opportunities, the contractor relies only on that portion of the individual’s military record, including his or her discharge papers, relevant to the requirement of the opportunity in issue.” For individuals with disabilities, organizations are “required to provide necessary reasonable accommodation to ensure applicants and employees with disabilities receive equal opportunity in the operation of personnel processes” and are “encouraged to make [their] information and communication technologies accessible, even absent a specific request for reasonable accommodation.”
Federal contractors and subcontractors must include descriptions of these reviews, as well as descriptions of any modifications made, in the respective affirmative action plans for protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.
OFCCP’s Examples of Items to Include in the Assessment of Personnel Processes
The regulations for protected veterans reference an appendix with items that are suggested but not required in a review of personnel processes. Among these items are the following:
- Applications or personnel forms for protected veterans should be annotated to identify each vacancy for which the applicant was considered
- Personnel or application records for protected veterans should include identification of each promotion for which he or she was considered and identification of any training program for which he or she was considered
- A statement regarding the reason for rejection when a protected veteran is not selected for an open position
While these suggestions appear to be robust, properly maintained personnel and applicant records can easily fulfill the purpose of these suggestions. The applicant tracking systems (ATS) for a federal contractor or subcontractor should provide a way for both external and internal applicants to provide veteran status. Additionally, federal contractors should be providing a post-offer opportunity for new hires to identify as protected veterans. If a federal contractor is capturing this information, then the first two suggestions are satisfied. Additionally, properly maintained disposition notes will help to fulfill the purpose of the third bullet point.
For individuals with disabilities, the regulations encourage federal contractors to “make their information and communication technology accessible.” This suggestion appears to relate to any form of technology used in the workplace and to any means information electronically with employees. OFCCP suggests that organizations use standards such as those available in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to evaluate accessibility. Beyond this, however, the regulations for individuals with disabilities do not provide any other suggestions regarding what processes federal contractors should assess.
What Should Federal Contractors and Subcontractors Assess and Include in Their AAPs?
Along with the requirements mentioned above, federal contractors and subcontractors should consider reviewing the following items periodically:
- The accessibility of personnel policies such as the company handbook and other types of company communications. If employees have requested accommodations regarding specific documents or communications, the employer should consider making all documents and communications accessible in the same manner. Organizations should examine whether they can produce documents and communications in an accessible format such as large print, high contrast, or Braille, if requested.
- Assess corporate intranets to determine whether they are compatible with accessibility software like screen magnifiers or screen readers. There are a variety of free programs available, including software that is part of the Windows operating system, that can be used to test compatibility. Additionally, there are a number of organizations that can help employers determine whether or not their intranets are accessible.
- The placement and availability of required posters such as the “EEO is the Law” poster, the “EEO is the Law” poster supplement, OFCCP’s Pay Transparency Statement, and medical leave posters. For example, contractors should determine whether these posters are placed in an area that can be seen by an individual in a wheelchair or an individual with a visual impairment.
- Company-sponsored recreational events to ensure they are accessible to all employees (and potentially the family members of all employees).
Ultimately, the nature of the processes that should be assessed is going to depend on the circumstances of individual organizations. What may be an issue for one organization may not be an issue for others. For instance, a company that has a production floor and warehouse may have accessibility challenges that a company with a completely remote workforce might not have. Federal contractors and subcontractors should examine the circumstances regarding the structures of their organizations and the makeup of their employee populations. There should be honest and robust discussions regarding the challenges that individuals with disabilities and protected veterans may face as employees or potential employees and sincere and educated problem solving to address these challenges..