Carl Schurz famously said that equal rights and self-interest were inextricably linked, saying, “You cannot subvert your neighbor’s rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own.”
This commitment to equal rights is at the heart of the work performed by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs because we recognize how inseparable equal rights are from the strength of the American workforce.
The president’s budget request for fiscal year 2015 includes $107.9 million for OFCCP to support our programs to protect workers, promote diversity and enforce the laws which demand that every worker get a fair shot and a fair shake in the workplace. The majority of our budget request is dedicated to funding and supporting the more than 700 men and women who work at our national headquarters in Washington, D.C., and in 48 field offices across the country.
OFCCP’s budget request for FY 2015 builds on the $105 million enacted in FY 2014, and includes an additional $1.1 million to strengthen our program to combat pay discrimination. Too many workers have no idea that they are being unfairly and illegally underpaid, and OFCCP has the unique ability to obtain and review contractor data to find that sort of discrimination. In other words, we can remedy problems that individual workers may not be able to resolve on their own.
But the pay gap isn’t the only issue we’re focused on. OFCCP will continue to support other enforcement priorities, including focusing on the elimination of sex and race-based discrimination in construction; and ensuring that veterans and individuals with disabilities are fairly recruited, hired, paid, promoted and retained in the workplace.
Last year, OFCCP compliance officers completed 3,963 evaluations of contractor establishments. They uncovered violations in nearly one-third of those reviews and, specifically, found evidence of discrimination at 76 establishments. We were able to successfully negotiate more than $9.7 million in back wages and 1,252 potential job opportunities on behalf of 11,397 workers affected by discrimination.
We can and will do more in the years ahead.
All of this work is performed with the ultimate goals of enforcing the non-discrimination and affirmative action obligations of companies that do business with the federal government, and making sure taxpayer dollars are never used to fund discrimination.
Kenneth Leung is the budget officer at the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.