On March 17, 2020, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) issued a temporary waiver of three areas of equal employment opportunity requirements that normally are included in every federal procurement contract for supplies, services and construction.1
This temporary waiver is applies exclusively to companies providing services, supplies and construction to the federal government specifically in response to COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. The exemption and waiver is for a period of three months – March 17, 2020 to June 17, 2020. It is not retro-active.
This temporary waiver will exempt contractors who receive such contracts from their federal affirmative action obligations. For some contractors, this will mean relief from its current affirmative action efforts, written affirmative action plans, equal employment opportunity policy statements, language in job postings, EEO compliance filings and on-site audit and compliance visits.
To be clear, the memo does not relieve contractors from their obligation not to discriminate; but much of the administrative effort required of contractors to demonstrate compliance is being waived for contracts related to the COVID-19 response. Also, it is not an automatic waiver. OFCCP advised that each federal agency, and individual Contracting Officers, “may” utilize the revised provisions containing these waivers.
Going forward, the OFCCP could expand the waiver/exemption as the response to the national emergency broadens; the waiver/exemption could be flowed down to those supply chain suppliers at the secondary and tertiary acquisition needs and the period of applicability could be extended.
1As background, OFCCP is a civil rights agency in the U.S. Department of Labor. It enforces three areas of compliance: Executive Order 11246 (Equal Employment Opportunity), Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (employment of qualified individuals with disabilities), and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (veterans’ employment). Collectively, these laws prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran.