New Labor Rule Favors Contractors Who ‘Play by the Rules’

Rule rewards federal contractors who adhere to DOL values of fair pay, safe workplaces, non-discrimination.

The recently issued Fair Pay Safe Workplaces final rule and guidance rewards federal contractors who do just that – work hard and play by the rules – on behalf of the millions of Americans who work for them. This rule also benefits the responsible contractors who are doing the right thing, so that they no longer have to compete for contracts with companies that do not. Contracting with the government is a privilege, not an entitlement, and the Department of Labor says it wants to make sure that the companies enjoying that privilege comply with our nation’s laws and the values that underpin them.

Those values are straightforward:

  • A hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay
  • A nation built on the dignity of work must provide safe working conditions for its people
  • Discrimination has no place in our society

There are too many low-road contractors who break those laws and continue to get federal contracts. Some discriminate in hiring and pay, treat veterans unfairly, withhold overtime, subject their employees to physical danger, or otherwise deny some basic workplace protections. These are cases where companies that failed to live up to our values continue to benefit from our money.

This final rule will help make sure that workers like Helen Avalos are getting the wages and benefits they deserve. In November 2012, Helen was working for a cleaning contractor at Walter Reed National Medical Center when her employer stopped paying its workers and contributing to employee health funds. Helen waited for weeks to be paid what she was owed. She couldn’t pay the bills, but the company that put her in financial jeopardy went on to receive millions of dollars in federal contracts.

In the final rule and guidance issued today, we’ve worked hard to make it easy and efficient for businesses to comply. For businesses that play by the rules, the reporting process is simple. The vast majority of businesses will only need to check a box affirming that they don’t have any labor violations from the reporting period. Building on the existing procurement system, the new reporting process fits into established practices that are familiar to contractors and contracting officers. We’re also making sure that workers can access basic information about their pay and hours they need to know whether they’re getting paid what they’re owed.

As in all of our rulemaking, we built a big table and invited everyone to pull up a chair. We worked closely with our federal partners throughout the government. We conducted extensive outreach to the contracting community, worker advocates, procurement officials and other stakeholders. We received and considered thousands of comments. The final rule and guidance reflect careful consideration of the extensive comments we received – including from many members of the contracting community – and considerable collaboration and coordination across the administration.

We are also committed to making sure that all contractors are treated consistently and fairly. That’s why we are building a network of agency labor compliance advisors across the federal government who will be a resource to work with contracting officers, contractors and the Department of Labor. They’ll make sure that we’re consistent across agencies, and that anyone who has a question has an easy way to get answers from the experts.

This rule is about basic fairness, but it makes business sense, too. We know that contractors who cheat or endanger their workers also are more likely to have performance problems on their contracts. This final rule will improve the economy and efficiency of government contracts and give taxpayers better value for their money.

The federal procurement process should deliver value for taxpayers in a way that is consistent with our values. What we’re doing is an important step to ensure that when the government spends taxpayers’ money, it works for everyone, and reflects our most sacred values as a nation. With the Fair Pay Safe Workplaces final rule and guidance, we are helping to ensure that workers are protected, businesses have a fair shot to compete and taxpayers get the best bang for their buck.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor blog