Newton Customer Offers Firsthand Look Into OFCCP Evaluation
For Federal Contractors, there is a significant amount of information online helping to breakdown OFCCP compliance. Through our own blog posts, we have covered various topics such as Tracking Applicant Flow Data for OFCCP Compliance, The Guide to OFCCP Compliance for Federal Contractors – 2016, and Choosing an Applicant Tracking System to Promote OFCCP and EEO Compliance.
Unfortunately, when it comes to actually going through an OFCCP audit, or “evaluation,” there is limited guidance available. For this reason, we thought it would be beneficial to offer a firsthand look into what to expect from an OFCCP audit. To do so, we sat down with one of our customers, Sherm Conger, who is the Director of Human Resources at Campbell Scientific. Recently, Sherm went through a rather long and exhaustive OFCCP audit and was willing to share his perspective on the experience with us. Thanks for your help on this piece Sherm!
Sherm’s Motto: Every employee matters, every question matters, every day.
When did Campbell Scientific become a government contractor?
“Campbell Scientific has been around for 43 years and we have probably been a government contractor for about 40 years or so. Unfortunately, I can’t speak to what it was like going through the initial contracting process since I came onboard 4 years ago.”
Does being a government contractor pose any constraints on your day-to-day recruiting?
“No, I wouldn’t say there are any constraints. However, there certainly are additional steps that I must take to meet OFCCP requirements. For example, I must be careful about the specific language of Campbell Scientific’s job postings. There are also additional requirements for external job postings and internal job postings.
For every external job posting that we make, they must be posted to our local Utah State Department of Workforce Services. This is the outlet that the OFCCP has designated as a required posting area. Posting to this site helps us meet certain Affirmative Action criteria. For posting jobs internally, the only requirement is that all employees have equal access to the job posting and that all employees are eligible to apply.”
You mentioned previously that you have been through an OFCCP evaluation. How were you notified?
“This is a funny story actually. I was hired about four years ago to replace someone who was retiring. I only learned that Campbell Scientific was going through an audit after I came onboard.
Campbell Scientific had already undergone an OFCCP desk audit and on-site audit and there were still unresolved issues. As a result of this, the OFCCP issued Campbell Scientific a Conciliation Agreement, which stated our current violations and offered guidance for remedying them. When I came on, it became my job to work with the OFCCP to resolve this Conciliation Agreement.”
Can you summarize the violations that were listed in the Conciliation Agreement?
“The Conciliation Agreement cited us on four violations that we needed to remedy. A summary of our violations were as follows:
- We failed to provide evidence of a separate AAP for individuals with disabilities.
- Our adverse impact analyses failed to evaluate the individual components of the selection process for adverse impact.
- We failed to list all employment openings with the appropriate state employment service delivery system.
- We failed to file a VETS-100A report in accordance with OFCCP regulations.”
How did you go about remedying these violations cited in the Conciliation Agreement?
“My first course of action was to evaluate our standing in the general landscape of compliance for the audit. I had to do extensive research to root out the causes of these violations and understand how to go about adjusting our processes to become compliant.
Because we weren’t using Newton at the start of this process, all of these reports had to be pulled together manually. In order for me to address the violations effectively, I had to go back and rediscover all of the data myself. I felt like this was the only way that I could guarantee what I was providing to the OFCCP was accurate. This was important for me so that I could defend my own information and not have to defend someone else’s.”
How long would you estimate that it took you to complete this process?
“Oh my goodness, it’s too painful to recall! What I do know is that when I came on, Campbell Scientific had already been involved in the OFCCP audit process for a year. After this, it took me another year and a half to resolve the evaluation, so the whole process lasted a little more than two years. In a way, I am thankful that this was such a massive investment of time and resources. It was because of this audit and the nightmare of having to go back and manually aggregate all of this data, that helped me to justify the purchase of an applicant tracking system.”
How would you gather this information prior to using an applicant tracking system?
“Campbell Scientific maintained their own database on spreadsheets. Data entry was manual and reporting was manual as well. Multiple people maintained this spreadsheet and there was not great organization or communication. Also, you have to factor in human error. Inevitably, the information maintained was disorganized and there was a significant amount of data missing.
Beyond this, Campbell Scientific did a couple of things that really put them at a disadvantage for the audit. There were poor policies in place that made it hard for them to react to data requests by the OFCCP. One of these was that they accepted applications from anybody, at any time, for any position, without bothering to track the applicant flow data for these applicants. The OFCCP expects you to be able to paint the picture of what happened for every candidate – what stage they made it to in the hiring process, a reason for non-selection, EEO data, and so on. Because we weren’t actively tracking this information, we were unable to provide it to the OFCCP.”
Did you encounter any consequences or other forms of discipline from the evaluation?
“The OFCCP has a progressive discipline schedule if you will. The first phase is the Conciliation Agreement. If you don’t meet the Conciliation Agreement, then the OFCCP fines you. Following this, you still have to meet the conditions of the Conciliation Agreement. If you fail a second time, then you can no longer do business with the government for a period of at least one year.
We were in the first phase of this discipline schedule, where the OFCCP issues what they call a Conciliation Agreement. This comes following the on-site evaluation if there are areas of concern that require further remedying. Listed in the Conciliation Agreement, are your potential violations as well as the steps that you must take to rectify these violations. With the Conciliation Agreement, you have a time period to address the issues that have been raised. After this time period, the OFCCP comes back and re-evaluates you on these violations to ensure that you have resolved them.”
Given that you came onboard mid-audit, did you request an extension of time?
“I did. I told our OFCCP agent that to resolve some of the violations, I would need to use an applicant tracking system. I let them know that to comply with the issues, and to verify accuracy, I needed more time to implement an applicant tracking system and collect enough useful data from it.
Furthermore, I was very transparent with them about my situation. I told them that I wanted to get things right and I was doing everything in my power to cooperate with their requests. When they understood that I was operating a one-man show, and I was having to do this all manually, they were more accepting of my situation.”
When you finally re-filed with the OFCCP, what was the resolution?
“There were no other consequences. I got an email from the OFCCP that essentially said, ‘We have received your conciliation report, you have met the conditions of the audit satisfactorily, this case is now closed.’”
What would be your recommendation to others in managing the evaluation period?
“Ultimately, my advice to anybody going through an OFCCP evaluation is to be fully cooperative and give them exactly what they are looking for. Be 100% transparent and you will find that you spend less time with them and the process will be less painful. If they feel that you are cooperating with them, then they will be much more willing to work with you. In my case, I simply said, ‘Okay, I see we still have these deficiencies, tell me how to fix the problems and I will work with you to resolve them.’ When I spun it like this, the OFCCP became a lot more friendly. Also, in this case, if issues arise, you can go back and show the OFCCP that you did exactly what was indicated. As long as you are cooperative, the OFCCP is willing to work with you.”
Have you been audited since then?
“No, and I sure hope that we don’t have to go through this process again. I expect in time we will get audited again, however, because the OFCCP is increasing their audit count every year. Thankfully, having gone through the process already, I know what to expect. Also, now that I have Newton, I know that all of my bases are covered as far as OFCCP compliance goes.”
Where do you get your information from to stay current on OFCCP compliance?
“Mainly from the OFCCP and SHRM. I subscribe to both, and both organizations are very good about keeping law changes out in front of you. The OFCCP offers training sessions for employers, which is probably one of the best things that you can do.
Beyond staying up-to-date, it’s just a matter being proactive in making the necessary changes to maintain compliance. If you see a change in a rule or regulation, but wait to take action, chances are you will forget about it. This will come back to haunt you in the end. You must act immediately when you hear of regulatory updates and work to maintain your compliance. This proactive behavior will ultimately make your life much easier when the OFCCP comes knocking.”
Having been through an OFCCP evaluation, can you speak to the specifics of how Newton’s applicant tracking system empowers you to maintain OFCCP compliance?
“I think it is as simple as stating that the OFCCP reporting capability that Newton offers is sufficient to meet OFCCP requirements. Newton does a great job of staying informed as to what these requirements are and their applicant tracking system is built in such a way that these requirements are met automatically within the workflow of the system. Knowing that Newton is a leader in OFCCP compliance functionality, I have full confidence that Newton is staying on top of this. With this confidence and Newton’s OFCCP reporting capabilities, this is all I really need to be in good shape. Although this is critical, I don’t think that it’s any more complicated than that.”
What is your key advice for readers to take away?
“Having an applicant tracking system that meets OFCCP compliance standards is absolutely the number one thing that you need to successfully get through an OFCCP audit. Additionally, you must be vigilant about executing on your affirmative action plans. Creating these plans themselves is not hard. Actually taking action on these plans, this is the hard part. You must proactively monitor your ongoing progress towards these plans and if you find any deficiencies, you must move to resolve them immediately. Lastly, working with a consultant during the OFCCP evaluation was incredibly helpful and I highly recommend finding a good consultant from the beginning.”
Sherm Conger Bio
Sherm Conger, currently the Director of Human Resources at Campbell Scientific, is a Business Operations and Certified Human Resource Professional with more than 20 years of mid-senior level experience in fast-paced, technology-based industries. He prides himself on being a strategic leader and team-player, with a proven track record of leading business practices and objectives by establishing employee-oriented, top-performing cultures that emphasize individual productivity, accountability, and goal achievement. Those who have worked with him, recognize him as a “gifted” executive and the “right” liaison between employees and management. He is also praised for his “in the trenches” approach to planning and implementation.