Just days before President Trump took the oath of office, members of the Obama administration's Labor Department filed lawsuits against some of America's most famous tech firms. The lawsuits accused companies including Google and Oracle of racial and gender discrimination when it came to hiring and compensation decisions. But the lawsuits weren't based on any actual complaints. And there was no proof of wrongdoing.
Instead, an agency within the Department of Labor called the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), concocted the claims based on statistics provided by the companies — never taking into account fit, attitude, productivity or any of the other myriad considerations related to hiring and compensation decisions by employers.
The OFCCP is the federal agency tasked with enforcing the affirmative action and nondiscrimination requirements of federal contractors. When the agency isn't busy suing companies based on data, rather than complaints or evidence, it is harassing companies for the data it's using to sue them.
Under Obama and continuing into the Trump administration, the agency became notorious for demanding overly broad, expensive and time-consuming requests for employment data.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the OFCCP "requested resumes, applications, and interview notes for all 12,000 applicants for every open position" within one company. This outrageously burdensome demand was "made without the OFCCP first identifying any job groups in which it had determined there was adverse impact in hiring."
In most cases, the OFCCP demands that massive collections of documents be provided in 3 to 5 days — a nearly impossible task given the scope of the requests.
In a report on issues plaguing the OFCCP, the Chamber called the agency's demands for data "fishing expeditions," that seek — "without regard to cost or burden to contractors — any statistical evidence to support any claim of discrimination."
If companies fail to comply with the OFCCP's burdensome demands, they could be banned from applying for future federal contracts. It's enough to make some companies wonder if doing business with the federal government is worth the hassle.
Troublingly, the OFCCP's pestering doesn't appear motivated by an honest commitment to upholding equal employment laws or preventing workplace discrimination. Instead, it seems the agency was more interested in using the legal system to exert more control over businesses and workers.
In the final days of the Obama administration, the OFCCP rolled out a series of dubious discrimination lawsuits against Silicon Valley tech firms, including one against Oracle just two days before Obama left office.
Despite no reported instances of discrimination, Palantir Technologies, a company that provides the government with data analytics to help in the fight against terrorism, determined it was cheaper and easier to pay the feds a $1.7 million settlement, rather than fighting the suit in court.
Google beat the OFCCP in court, but only after being forced to spend untold sums on attorneys and having the company's name dragged through the mud.
Software-maker Oracle is still fighting a case in which the OFCCP claimed the company engaged in "systemic practice of paying Caucasian male employees more than their counterparts in the same job title …" and "favoring Asian workers in its recruiting and hiring practices," despite having no complaints that either occurred.
The Trump administration has a chance to right this wrong and end the Obama era witch hunts against federal contractors. Eugene Scalia, President Trump's secretary of labor, is positioned to immediately reform the OFCCP so that the agency focuses on tackling actual instances of discrimination, rather than getting caught up in making life difficult for law-abiding federal contractors.
With businesses and individuals struggling to make ends meet because of the economic destruction caused by the coronavirus, Secretary Scalia should be committed to saving both taxpayers and companies time and money by dropping the remaining Obama lawsuits. Scalia should then make sure the OFCCP ends its practice of burdening companies with ridiculous requests for documents that, in the end, do little to indicate whether a business is engaging in discriminatory hiring, firing or compensation decisions.
It is critical that companies be held accountable for upholding affirmative action and anti-discrimination requirements. But employers should be punished for discrimination based on complaints and evidence, not data formulated by a runaway agency that has little regard for reason or justice.
Drew Johnson Drew Johnson is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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