Secretary Solis’s vision of “good jobs for everyone” is one of the Labor Department’s top priorities. Unfortunately, not all workers are treated fairly in the workplace. The role of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is to address just that situation by ensuring non-discrimination, equal employment opportunity and affirmative action by federal contractors.
Most of our work is self-initiated, meaning we don’t wait for someone to file a complaint alleging discrimination to begin an investigation. Often we find that people are not aware of the unfair and illegal treatment they have been subjected to and some are even unaware of their rights — specifically that they shouldn’t be treated differently because of their sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran. And we also find that those involved in the actual hiring process are ignorant of such laws as well.
Recently, OFCCP reached an agreement with contractor Nishimoto, which agreed to pay $400,000 in back wages and interest to 71 women who were rejected for sales associate positions when they applied at the company’s facility in Santa Fe Springs, California. Nishimoto, which holds federal contracts worth $1.2 million with the U.S. Department of Defense, also agreed to extend job offers to 14 of these women as sales associate positions become available.
In this case, we found that women were treated differently due to cultural biases held by individuals directly involved in the hiring process. So in order to prevent this from happening again, it was essential that the agreement included provisions for Nishimoto to immediately correct any discriminatory practices, improve training for personnel involved in the hiring process, and undertake self-monitoring to ensure that all employment practices comply with the law.
These actions will have a direct impact, not just for the rejected female applicants, but also in benefitting future applicants at Nishimoto’s offices throughout the United States – in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Texas and Washington.
OFCCP’s role is to correct past discrimination and make sure that steps are taken to ensure equality in the future. As a federal contractor, Nishimoto’s obligation is to ensure equal employment opportunity and affirmative action in its workforce.
Agreements like this show the importance of the work that my agency does – to correct a wrong and set things right so that everyone can get an equal shot at a good job.
The author, Jane Suhr is the District Director of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ Los Angeles District Office.