The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which supervises compliance of federal contractors and subcontractors, plans to create a new point of contact for those businesses.
Called the Ombud Service (apparently the title “ombudsman” was considered too sexist) will serve as a point of contact for contractors seeking to raise concerns or suggestions about OFCCP’s actions.
“In principle, the idea of an Ombud Service makes sense,” says attorney Guy Brenner of the law firm of Proskauer Rose. “It would provide contractors with an avenue to raise concerns and address perceived unfair conduct by compliance officers.”
This is aimed at a Government Accountability Office report that found “stakeholders and contractors fear that asking OFCCP for assistance would call attention to them and possibly make them a target for future OFCCP enforcement actions, such as compliance evaluations.”
The OFCCP said the change is intended to respond to concerns that the agency does not have an independent mechanism through which external stakeholders, after having exhausted district and regional office channels, can share their concerns.
Subject to comment, these proceedings can offer information regarding an open matter or provider, or it can be general feedback and recommendations to improve the administration of the agency.
“Whether and to what extent OFCCP can provide contractors such assurances will be a key element of the program and perhaps the key determinant of its success,” according to Brenner.
An important issue must be addressed, he stresses. “One detail that will portend the effectiveness of the new service is how it handles confidentiality.”
Although the directive recognizes contractors are concerned that raising issues with the agency could lead to retribution, the directive does not contain discussion of how the Ombud Service will protect the identities of contractors, Brenner notes.