On March 15, 2022, the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) issued a new directive putting federal contractors on notice that it will more closely scrutinize their pay equity audits. Making headlines, the directive states that federal contractors are expected to hand over information about their internal pay analyses when being audited by the office, including documents that are protected by the attorney-client privilege and/or work product doctrine.
Executive Order 11246 requires affirmative action and prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin. Contractors also are prohibited from discriminating against applicants or employees because they inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or that of others.
As part of their affirmative action obligations, supply and service contractors are required to perform an in-depth analysis of their total employment practices to determine whether and where impediments to equal employment opportunity exist. This includes conducting an in-depth analysis of their compensation systems to determine whether there are gender-, race-, or ethnicity-based disparities, as provided in 41 CFR 60-2.17(b)(3).3.
To comply with the regulations, most companies doing business with the federal government conduct an evaluation of their pay practices for potential gender, race, or ethnicity-based disparities. Oftentimes, these analyses are performed with the help of outside counsel who provides legal advice regarding, among other things, compliance with the requirements enforced by OFCCP. And, until now, these pay audits have been considered privileged and confidential.
Impact of the new directive
During a compliance evaluation, a supply and service contractor is required to provide OFCCP with compensation data. In addition to requesting additional compensation data, interviews, and employment records, the OFCCP is now making explicit that it may also seek the contractor’s evaluation under § 60-2.17(b)(3), which the OFCCP calls the “pay equity audit.”