Washington, DC – On April 7, 2020 a broad coalition of 56 civil rights and workers’ rights organizations led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to oppose the Department’s decision to temporarily exempt and waive affirmative action obligations under new supply, service, and construction federal contracts for coronavirus relief.
The letter highlights that the pandemic and its economic repercussions are disproportionately impacting people of color and other historically marginalized communities, and urges the federal government to do everything to ensure that federal contractors responding to COVID-19 are affirmatively recruiting and promoting all employment opportunities to those most impacted.
“We are in the midst of a national health crisis, and many workers throughout our economy are losing their jobs. Not surprisingly, communities of color and other marginalized communities are disproportionately feeling the economic shocks of this pandemic,” said Dariely Rodriguez, Director of the Economic Justice Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
"Civil rights are non-negotiable and we must do everything to ensure that limited employment opportunities are being targeted at those who need them the most.”
The letter also outlines the critical obligations under Executive Order 11246 and federal statutes that have been waived. These laws require government contractors to undertake affirmative efforts to ensure that equal opportunity is provided in all aspects of employment, including recruitment and hiring.
The exemptions not only apply to federal contractors, but also to the subcontractors with whom they do business. The waivers will undoubtedly discourage covered employers responding to the coronavirus pandemic from casting a wide net to recruit diverse workers from historically underrepresented populations. They will also keep contractor and subcontractor workers and their union representatives in the dark about their legal rights and make enforcement of affirmative action regulations even more difficult.
In the letter, the organizations urged the OFCCP to not abandon its mission of promoting diversity and protecting workers during this pandemic by rescinding, limiting or not extending this exemption.
The letter sent to the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs can be found here.