Senate Funding Bill Rejects Merger of EEOC, Contractor Watchdog

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By Jay-Anne B. Casuga

The Senate Appropriations Committee rejected the Trump administration’s proposal to merge the EEOC and the Labor Department’s contractor compliance office.

Language aimed at killing the controversial proposal appeared in a spending bill approved Sept. 7 by the committee. This appears to be the first official word from lawmakers against the proposed consolidation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Business and civil rights groups have opposed the merger, arguing that the agencies have different legal authorities and enforcement goals.

Last week, a merger delay was anticipated based on a letter written by the OFCCP’s acting director and provided exclusively to Bloomberg BNA. Two weeks ago, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 12 was the first to go on the record with Bloomberg BNA to say the proposal was dead.

A merger won’t occur without Senate support, as a number of legislative and regulatory actions would be required to merge the agencies and to reconcile their different enforcement structures and approaches.

Committee Tells Agency to Find Cost Savings

The Senate appropriations bill, which would fund the OFCCP at about $103.5 million for fiscal year 2018, urges the agency to “find efficiencies and cost savings, including the consolidation of offices, within its current budget structure.” The agency is currently funded at about $104.5 million.

“This should include a review of the current OFCCP office locations and infrastructure across the country and whether these offices align with current workload needs,” the bill states.

The agency already has discussed plans to establish “skilled regional centers,” one in San Francisco and one in New York. That idea was raised during the Obama administration and has continued under the Trump administration.

The centers would be staffed with specialized compliance officers who would handle complex audits of contractors in specific industries, such as financial services or information technology.

They would reduce “the need for a network of field area and district offices,” the agency has said. It currently has six regional offices and about 49 district and area offices.

The Senate’s funding bill will eventually have to be reconciled with the House’s version, which would fund the OFCCP at $94.5 million. The House bill is silent on the merger proposal. President Donald Trump had proposed an $88 million budget for the agency.

Two Reports to Congress

Additionally, the agency must report to the committee within 180 days of enactment of the bill with a plan to “consolidate and right-size the agency,” the Senate bill says.

House appropriators also are requiring the OFCCP to report on the status of efforts to implement recommendations given to the agency last fall by the Government Accountability Office. That report would be due within 160 days of enactment of a funding bill.

The GAO analyzed the agency’s audits since 2010 and concluded that it needs to revise its contractor selection process to target employers at the “greatest risk” of not complying with their affirmative action and equal employment opportunity obligations.

The accountability office also offered other recommendations for the agency, including developing an annual requirement for contractors—not just those randomly selected for audits—to submit their affirmative action programs. Additionally, it recommended that the contractor office uniformly train its staff to ensure consistent audits nationwide, as well as review its compliance assistance efforts and guidance materials for contractors.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga in Washington at jcasuga@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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