Editor’s Note: This is a Special Two-Week Edition of the DirectEmployers Week In Review (for the period December 19,,2023 through January 1, 2024). DE publishes this Special Edition each year at this time to report what you missed when so many of our readers are away for the end-of-year Holidays. WELCOME BACK! (You will find, below, that the New Year has already started off quickly with a host of new and important stories.)

One of our Blogs last year really hit home: We are pleased to announce that JDSupra has just informed us that one of our Blogs on the Harvard/UNC SCOTUS case decision was among the most widely read Blogs it published in 2023 in the Government Contractor channel. That Blog discussed the five possible outcomes from the case decision (and accurately predicted the outcome), provided “thumbnail sketches” of the legal holdings of prior SCOTUS case decisions that frame and explain admission preferences law, and outlined the three reasons the Harvard and UNC cases were improperly characterized as “affirmative action” cases instead of as “direct evidence” unlawful discrimination cases. If you missed it and want to see what the fuss was all about, click here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023: Embracing Generational Differences at Work Discussed in New DE Talk Podcast

Also, New Minisode Covered Navigating the AI Landscape in Recruitment Marketing

For the first time in history, five generations are working simultaneously in the workplace. As a result, tensions arise as work trends shift in ways older generations have never seen, and fear-based differences create gaps among employees that may seem impossible to close. In this episode, we sit down with certified coach and trained speaker Lindsay Boccardo to discuss the four factors of employee engagement, and how humanizing your workforce and learning to manage emotional labor through self-awareness and regulation are the first steps to bridging the generational gap. In addition, we discuss the value of mentorship in preventing the retirement brain drain and how authenticity may be the key to attracting younger generations. Click here to listen now!

DE Talk S5E6 Embracing Generational Differences at Work with Lindsay Boccardo

Bonus Minisode on Navigating the AI Landscape in Recruitment Marketing. With the emergence of artificial intelligence automation like machine learning and ChatGPT, AI is rapidly permeating the human resources/talent acquisition world, in hopes of making work life easier for HR professionals while simultaneously creating faster, more streamlined processes for job seekers.

As exciting as it is, the information on this technology can be overwhelming and fraught with some difficulties and unforeseen pitfalls. Join Elliott Obermaier and Ruth Toombs from Recruit Rooster as they discuss what AI in the HR space is, how it works, and some current obstacles. Click here to listen now!

DE Talk S5 Minisode Navigating the AI Landscape in Recruitment Marketing featuring Recruit Rooster

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Thursday, December 21, 2023: President Biden Intends to Renominate Julie Su to be the Next U.S. Secretary of Labor

Official seals for the United States Senate and the President of the United States Following the U.S. Senate’s return to President Biden of his previous nomination of  Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su to be the next U.S. Secretary of Labor, the White House has now confirmed its intent to nonetheless resubmit Ms. Su’s name for the Secretary’s job. President Biden’s prior nomination of Ms. Su (which the President announced February 28, 2023: See our WIR story here) to become the next Secretary of Labor had failed in the U.S. Senate (on July 13, 2023: See our WIR story here) for want of a majority vote to confirm her nomination as at least two Democrat Senators (Manchin (WV) and Sinema (AZ)) publicly refused to support her controversial nomination.

Acting Secretary Su has been serving as Acting Secretary of Labor since the prior Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh, resigned summarily in a huff over The President’s failure to appoint Walsh to be his Chief of Staff when that job became available. Ms. Su has now served as the Acting Secretary of Labor for 297 days (since March 11, 2023, when Secretary of Labor Walsh formally exited the Labor Department) and the date of this publication (and counting).

Readers may review all of our prior stories related to the saga of Acting Secretary Su’s previous nomination here, here, here, and here.

Friday, December 22, 2023: Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council Issued Final Rule Requiring Unionized Workforces on Large Federal Construction Projects

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)On December 22, 2023, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (“FAR Council”) published in the Federal Register its long awaited Final Rule mandating construction contractors, absent an exception, to use Project Labor Agreements (“PLAs”) for large-scale federal construction projects. The Final Rule, scheduled to go into effect on January 22, 2024, is yet another effort undertaken by the Biden Administration to strengthen labor unions in the face of years of declining membership.

Substantial legal issues loom, however, including as to whether this Rule would force non-unionized construction employers to violate Section 7 (Section 157) of the National Labor Relations Act which guarantees employees free choice to form or reject unions in their workplaces:

§157. Right of employees as to organization, collective bargaining, etc.
Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities (emphasis added) except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 158(a)(3) of this title.”

The Final Rule stems from President Biden’s issuance of Executive Order 14063 in February 2022. As we noted in reporting on the Executive Order, the opportunity to mandate the use of PLAs with one or more appropriate labor organizations provided the Administration the opportunity to “reward” its main arm of political support through an expansive reading of the President’s powers under the Federal Procurement Act (“FPA”). The Proposed Rule issued on August 19, 2022 clarified that federal procurement agencies would no longer have discretion in determining when to require a unionized construction workforce on large construction projects. Instead, as we reported at the time, the Proposed Rule made four substantial changes:

  • required federal Government construction contractors to negotiate a PLA with one or more appropriate labor organizations (i.e., unions) or become party to an existing PLA for any “large-scale” federal construction project;
  • raised the threshold for a project to count as a “large-scale” federal construction project from $25 million to $35 million;
  • expanded the definition of “construction” to mean “construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, modernization, alteration, conversion, extension, repair, or improvement of buildings, structures, highways, or other real property;” and
  • created three exceptions to the PLA requirement: (1) where a PLA would not achieve economy and efficiency in Federal procurement; (2) where a PLA would substantially reduce the number of potential bidders so as to frustrate full and open competition; or (3) where requiring a PLA would be inconsistent with other statutes, regulations, Executive Orders, or Presidential Memoranda.

In response to 8,334 comments to the Proposed Rule, the Final Rule underwent only the following two changes:

  • the Final Rule removed language specifying processes when a PLA has multiple signatory labor organizations representing the same trade since there are not multiple PLAs on a federal construction project; and
  • the Final Rule removed language preventing federal Government construction contractors from requiring subcontractors to enter a PLA with any particular labor organization, as subcontractors are required to become a party to the PLA negotiated by the prime construction contractor.

Despite numerous comments critical of the potential negative impact on an agency’s ability to use competition to achieve best value with the requirement of unionized workforces, the FAR Council rested on the exceptions to the PLA requirement to address such concerns. Furthermore, the FAR Council did not take as persuasive arguments about the potential increase in the costs of construction projects since the Final Rule secures structure and stability in construction projects, permits PLAs to contain terms that guarantee against job disruptions, and allows non-union contractors the ability to negotiate provisions in PLAs to accommodate potential increases in payroll costs for compensation and fringe benefits. Finally, the FAR Council disputed the characterization of some commenters that the Final Rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) or exceeded the authority of the Executive Branch in implementing the PLA.

In furtherance of the Final Rule, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) issued guidance to agencies on implementing the provisions of the Executive Order and Final Rule. The guidance requires agencies to: (1) conduct and document inclusive market research for all large-scale construction projects and require PLAs unless an exception applies, (2) ensure that any exception is approved by the Senior Procurement Executive (SPE), and (3) report PLA activity and exceptions with supporting explanation of exceptions to OMB. Important for construction contractors is the documentation OMB directs agencies to provide in support of the use of exceptions to the requirement for PLAs on large-scale federal construction projects. Specifically, in relation to exercising an exception, OMB guidance directs the agency to provide specific facts and details that construction contractors should use as guidance in attempting to obtain an exception to any PLA requirement in their own bids for large-scale construction contracts.

Thus, beginning January 22, 2024, federal construction contractors looking to bid on large-scale federal construction projects should work towards providing the evidence and arguments described in the guidance as to why an exception to the Final Rule applies to hopefully convince the SPE to create an exception to the PLA requirement. Otherwise, bidders on large-scale federal construction projects must face the potential of incorporating into its costs the required agreement to a PLA unionizing the construction workforce on the project.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023: EEOC Commissioner Sonderling Continued Advocating for Increased EEOC Involvement in Regulating AI in the Workplace

Official Seal of the EEOC featuring Bald Eagle and bannerAs attendees at DEAMcon22 and DEAMcon23 may recall, EEOC Commissioner Keith Sonderling (R-term expires July 2024) has over the course of the last couple of years taken a lead position at the EEOC to discuss the impact of artificial intelligence (“AI”) on hiring and recruitment of workforces. Recently, in an interview with Politico published on December 26th, Commissioner Sonderling re-emphasized the need for the EEOC to take a leading role to ensure employer compliance with anti-discrimination laws while using AI tools for hiring and recruiting purposes.

In the interview, EEOC Commissioner Sonderling emphasized the importance of ensuring compliance given the “scalability of AI” and its impact on potentially millions of applicants. As such, it is necessary for employers to be aware of the laws that apply to its use in hiring and recruiting. EEOC Commissioner Sonderling discussed the importance of the design and use of AI systems to ensure non-discrimination, which could require increased funding for investigators or a new agency to investigate the technology and algorithms involved. Finally, EEOC Commissioner Sonderling discussed certain tools being debated for inclusion in laws directed towards regulating AI, including applicant consent or notice as to the use of AI and AI vendor liability under discrimination laws.

Given that three Democrats currently control the five-member policy-setting Equal Employment Opportunity Commission along with Commissioner Sonderling’s strong views on compliance as good for business, employers may anticipate future EEOC guidance directed at the emerging use of AI in hiring and recruitment. This is especially anticipated given President Biden’s recent Executive Order requiring reports as to labor-market effects of AI and best practices to mitigate potential harms to employee well-being and private data. We previously summarized President Biden’s directive here. However, Commissioner Sonderling joins a large chorus of voices who have noted that existing civil rights laws already on the books are sufficient to address any unlawfully discriminatory employer use of AI in employment transactions.

In Brief

Wednesday, December 20, 2023: White House Regulatory Affairs Office Finalized Guidance to Promote Public Engagement in Regulatory Review Processes

Navy blue backdrop with architectural drawing of the White House with the words The White House, Washington, D.C. below itThe White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (“OIRA”) finalized a new Guidance document intended to “promote greater public engagement in OIRA’s regulatory review process.” It implements Section 2(e) of Executive Order (“EO”) 14094 (Modernizing Regulatory Review). That section of EO 14094 concerns the process for persons not employed by the executive branch to request meetings with OIRA officials regarding the substance of regulatory actions under OIRA review – a process established under Section 6(b)(4) of EO 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review. This guidance refers to such meetings as “E.O. 12866 meetings.”

Sam Berger, Associate Administrator of the OIRA, posted a blog announcing a finalized Guidance. At the end of our April 2023 story about EO 14094, we noted the Office of Management and Budget’s April 7, 2023, Federal Register Notice requesting public comments on implementing Section 2(e) of EO 14094. That comment period closed on June 6, 2023, with 38 comments submitted. According to Administrator Berger, the finalized Guidance took into account those comments.

Thursday, December 21, 2023: President Biden Raised Pay for Federal Civilian & Military Workforce by an Average of 5.2%

Navy blue backdrop with architectural drawing of the White House with the words The White House, Washington, D.C. below itBecause this event may have a “slop-over” effect into private sector wage-setting, we report that beginning the first full pay period in January 2024, federal civilian and military employees will get an average 5.2 percent pay raise, under President Biden’s Executive Order 14113. The 5.2 percent raise is an increase over the 4.6 percent average pay boost federal workers received in 2023 (see our story here). Both Government Executive and the Federal News Network noted that the 2024 increase is the largest in over four decades (going back to the Carter Administration).

Thursday, December 21, 2023: US DOL ETA Formally Sought Public Input Whether to Revise “Schedule A” Labor Certifications in Light of AI Development Needs

The Employment and Training Administration (“ETA”) of the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) formally published in the Federal Register a Notice of its Request for Information (“RFI”) seeking public input on whether to revise the list of Schedule A job classifications that do not require permanent labor certifications to include occupations in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (“STEM”) and other non-STEM occupations. The DOL published the RFI pursuant to the directive contained in Section 5 (e) of Executive Order 14110: “Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence.” The ETA first announced this RFI on December 15, 2023. (For more information, see our story here.)

Comments are due on or before February 20, 2024. You may submit them here or here.

Friday, December 29, 2023: Newest Defense Funding Bill Increases Contracting Dollar Goal for Veteran-Owned Small Businesses, Changes Process for Certification as Veteran-Owned Small Business

Official Seal of the United States CongressCongress recently passed the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) funding the Department of Defense for Fiscal Year 2024. The bill’s text includes two items of potential interest to federal contractors:

  • Section 849 of the bill provides that each prime contract award and subcontract award made with Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (“SDVOSBs”) or Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (“VOSBs”) should be with businesses the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) has certified. This change was added to incentivize federal agencies to award contracts only to those businesses the SBA has certified. The White House intends to eventually phase out self-certification of VOSBs and SDVOSBs.
  • Additionally, the bill increases the Department of Defense’s current 3% goal of contracting dollars going to Veteran-owed small businesses to 5%.

Also, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs transferred to the SBA all the Veterans Affairs certifications it had previously approved. Those Veterans Affairs certifications will remain active until the end of the contractor’s current certification period. Subsequently, contractors will need to seek re-certification through the SBA Veteran Small Business Certification process.

New Publications

New Publications

Thursday, December 21, 2023: EEOC article by its Special Operations Division, Office of Federal Operations on “Providing an Accessible Workplace.”

Looking Ahead:
Upcoming Date Reminders

There are two  NEW  items added to our calendar this week:

November 2023: EEOC’s (now overdue) target date for publication of an Interim Final Rule to Amend Procedural & Administrative Regulations to Include the PWFA (RIN: 3046-AB31)

November 2023: EEOC’s target date (now overdue) to publish its NPRM to amend its regulations on exemptions to certain recordkeeping and reporting requirements (RIN: 3046-AB28)

November 2023: U.S. DOL WHD’s (now overdue) target date for its Final Rule on Employee or Independent Contractor Classification Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (RIN: 1235-AA43); WHD submitted the Final Rule for OMB review on September 28, 2023.

December 29, 2023: Statutory deadline (now overdue) for EEOC to finalize regulations to enforce the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (RIN: 3046-AB30)

December 2023: U.S. OSHA’s current target date (now overdue) to publish its Final Rule on Occupational Exposure to COVID-19 in Healthcare Settings (RIN: 1218-AD36)

January 1, 2024: U.S. DOL OSHA’s Final Rule Requiring Covered High-Hazard Industry Employers to Electronically Submit Injury & Illness Records takes effect

January 1, 2024: The minimum wage for federal contracts covered by Executive Order 13658 (“Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors”) (contracts entered into, renewed, or extended prior to January 30, 2022), will increase to $12.90 per hour, and the minimum cash wage for tipped employees increases to $9.05 per hour (See our story here detailing exceptions)

January 1, 2024: The minimum wage for federal contractors covered by Executive Order 14026 (“Increasing the Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors”) (contracts entered into on or after January 30, 2022, or that are renewed or extended on or after January 30, 2022), will increase to $17.20 per hour, and this minimum wage rate will apply to non-tipped and tipped employees alike (See our story here detailing exceptions)

January 5, 2024: Comments due on U.S. Department of Commerce’s “Request for Information” Notice on six draft “Business Diversity Principles” for the private sector

January 15, 2024: Statutory deadline for EEOC’s publication of its Final Rule on the “2024 Adjustment of the Penalty for Violation of EEOC’s Notice Posting Requirement” (RIN: 3046-AB26)

 NEW  January 22, 2024: Effective date of FAR Council Final Rule mandating Project Labor (i.e., union) Agreements on large federal construction projects

January 29, 2024: Comment deadline on US DOL VETS request to renew currently approved VETS-4212 reporting requirement

February 2, 2024: Expiration date for Continuing Resolution to fund certain government agencies – including the US DOL, the EEOC, & the NLRB – at current levels

February 12, 2024: Comment deadline for OFCCP’s request to renew OMB approval of its online Supply & Service Contractor Portal interface, including new requirement for contractors to provide UEI numbers for the parent company and its establishments

February 12, 2024: Effective date for US DOL WHD Final Rule on “Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers Under Service Contracts”

 NEW  February 20, 2024: Deadline for comments on US DOL’s Request for Information seeking public input on whether to revise the list of Schedule A job classifications that do not require permanent labor certifications to include occupations in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (“STEM”) & other non-STEM occupations.

February 26, 2024: Effective date of NLRB’s Final Rule on Standard for Determining Joint-Employer Status under the NLRA (previous December 26, 2023, effective date extended)

March 2024: EEOC’s target date for proposal to amend its regulations regarding the electronic posting of the “Know Your Rights” Poster (RIN: 3046-AB29)

March 2024: U.S. NLRB’s target date for its Final Election Protection Rule (RIN: 3142-AA22)

April 3 – April 5, 2024: DEAMcon24 New Orleans – The DEAMcon24 Program is now live!

Register for DEAMcon24

April 2024: U.S. DOL WHD’s current target date for its Final Rule on Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales, and Computer Employees (Overtime Rule) (RIN: 1235-AA39)

September 2024: OFCCP’s current target date for its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to “Modernize” Supply & Service Contractor Regulations (RIN: 1250-AA13)

September 2024: OFCCP’s current target date for its Final Rule on “Technical Amendments” to Update Jurisdictional Thresholds & Remove Gender Assumptive Pronouns (RIN: 1250-AA16)

September 2024: EEOC’s anticipated date for amending its FOIA procedures to add fees for electronic disclosure of records (RIN: 3046-AB20).

September 2024: U.S. DOL WHD’s target date to publish an NPRM on “Employment of Workers With Disabilities Under Special Certificates” (Subminimum Wage Rule) (RIN: 1235-AA14)

THIS COLUMN IS MEANT TO ASSIST IN A GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE CURRENT LAW AND PRACTICE RELATING TO OFCCP. IT IS NOT TO BE REGARDED AS LEGAL ADVICE. COMPANIES OR INDIVIDUALS WITH PARTICULAR QUESTIONS SHOULD SEEK ADVICE OF COUNSEL.

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John C. Fox
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