Labor considers collecting data on what vendors pay

Thursday - 8/11/2011, 1:34pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Labor Department is considering collecting salaries, wages and other benefits paid to employees of federal contractors and subcontractors.

Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) yesterday issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking asking for comments on the scope, content and format of the data, as well as suggestions for ensuring that the tool will be an effective and efficient means of identifying contractors for review.

OFCCP also plans on holding webinar town hall listening sessions about the advanced notice in the coming months to reach a broader audience.

"The purpose of the proposed new tool is to provide insight into potential problems of pay discrimination by contractors that warrant further review or evaluation by OFCCP or contractor self-audit," Labor wrote in the Federal Register notice. "Accordingly, it is envisioned primarily as a screening tool, although it may also have research value. The tool would allow OFCCP to effectively and efficiently identify supply and service contractors whose compensation data indicates that further investigation is necessary to ensure compliance with the non-discrimination requirements of the Executive Order and would provide contractors with a self-assessment tool that may be used periodically to evaluate the effects of their employee compensation decisions."

Labor also stated the data collected through this tool may be used to identify contractors who require reviews of their compensation practices and/or full compliance reviews. Labor estimates government contractor employees account for about 22 percent of the total workforce.

Labor is developing this collection tool in response to requirements outlined in the Executive Order President Lyndon Johnson issued in 1965.

OFCCP enforces Executive Order 11246, which prohibits companies that do business with the federal government from discriminating in employment practices--including compensation--on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin or religion.

"Pay discrimination continues to plague women and people of color in the workforce," said OFCCP director Patricia Shiu, a member of the president's National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, in a release. "This proposal is about gathering better data, which will allow us to focus our enforcement resources where they are most needed. We can't truly solve this problem until we can see it, measure it and put dollar figures on it."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found a pay gap continues between men and women. Last year, BLS found that women earned 77 cents for every dollar men did. Additionally, BLS found pay gaps among racial groups.

OFCCP has focused on the equal pay issue for some time. Shiu told the Federal Drive last August her office hired 200 more people to work on compliance issues since President Barack Obama was elected.

OFCCP wants comments on 15 questions on the types of data that should be requested, the scope of information OFCCP should seek, how the data should be collected, how the data should be used, what the tool should look like, which contractors should be required to submit compensation data and how the tool might create potential burdens for small businesses.

Comments are due by Oct. 11.

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