The OFCCP has created a new web portal through which federal contractors must register and certify the development and maintenance of their Affirmative Action Program. Wondering what this means for your organization? Read on to discover the aims, timetable, and functionality of the new portal, and stay ahead of the new obligations.
Why Has the OFCCP Built the New Contractor Portal?
By setting up the OFCCP Contractor Portal, it aims to gain greater oversight on whether the tens of thousands of establishments that have signed a qualifying federal contract actually go on to develop an affirmative action plan within 120 days of its commencement. It’s believed that as many as 85% of contractors fail to fulfill this obligation on time, and the portal will aid the OFCCP’s enforcement efforts. It will also provide a process for ensuring that those AAPs are updated annually.
READ THE ORIGINAL ANNOUNCEMENT | ‘OFCCP Publishes Additional Information on the AAP Verification Contractor Portal’
AAP Certification for 2022: Some Key Dates
The OFCCP has set out the following timetable for the first year of the portal’s operation:
- February 1, 2022: Contractors have been able to register for access to the portal since the beginning of February. Most federal contractors previously in the OFCCP’s databases (via previous audit or EEO-1 filing) will have already received an invitation to the portal.
- March 31, 2022: The certification process will begin at the end of March. Contractors will be able to access this feature in the portal to certify their AAP compliance in the following three-month window.
- June 30, 2022: The last day of June is the deadline for certification. Existing contractors must certify whether they’ve developed and maintained an affirmative action program for each establishment and/or functional unit, as applicable. The portal will remain open beyond the June 30 date.
Who Has to Certify for the New OFCCP Contractor Portal?
Though the OFCCP will contact most eligible contractors, there will inevitably be organizations that are not sure whether they should be (or should have been) included in this wave of invitations. Particularly:
- Organizations that have recently been awarded a federal contract having not previously had any interactions with the OFCCP
- Organizations that have undergone significant changes since their last interaction with the OFCCP (e.g. by merger, growth, layoffs, or similar).
Firstly, organizations should know that the main criteria for having to produce an AAP (and therefore certify through the portal remains as follows:
Federal Contractors / Subcontractors that hold a contract of $50,000 or more and employ 50 or more employees must develop and maintain AAPs pursuant to Executive Order 11246 and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If a contractor has at least 50 employees and a contract of $150,000 or more, then it must also develop an AAP pursuant to the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974.
Key additional rules include:
- Organizations that solely have construction contracts with the federal government are not required to certify and should not register through the portal.
- Contractors with Functional Affirmative Action Programs (FAAPs) are required to certify through the portal.
- Higher education institutions are required to certify.
- Newly covered federal contractors must develop an AAP within 120 days of entering into their contract. Once this AAP is developed, they’ll then have 90 days to certify it.
Note that certification does not exempt contractors from compliance evaluations.
MORE ON OFCCP ACTIVITY | ‘Your Frequently Asked Questions and the Lessons We Learned From Working on OFCCP Audits’
What Are Organizations Expected to Certify?
Essentially, organizations will go through the process on the portal for each of their establishments and will have three options:
- To attest that the organization has developed and maintained affirmative action programs at each establishment, as applicable, and/or for each functional or business unit.
- To state that the organization has been party to a qualifying federal contract or subcontract for 120 days or more and has not yet developed and maintained affirmative action programs at each establishment, as applicable.
- To note that the organization became a covered federal contractor or subcontractor within the past 120 days and therefore has not yet developed applicable affirmative action programs.
A Guided Tour of the OFCCP Contractor Portal
Ahead of March 31, the portal is limited in scope and focused solely on allowing organizations to register and manage their AAP establishment information. You’ll first click on the “Create Account” button and then provide login.gov details (or create them) on the next screen. Note that these are user account details, rather than those of the company. To keep the service secure, this login process requires two-factor authentication, either via text message, email, or authenticator app.
Connecting User Accounts to Organizations
In the next step, you’ll connect your user account to your company. The first box asks for your federal employer ID number, the nine-digit number associated with your EEO-1 files. The second number is the first six characters of your EEO-1 headquarters/company ID number, and a third is for your establishment or unit number. The third field is optional and comes into play when registering a site that isn’t your headquarters. If you receive an error message when registering the headquarters, repeat the same number in the third field. Look to your 2018 EEO-1 files for all of these numbers. If you do not have access to this information, check the box to the right then click Continue.
IMPORTANT! At launch, users experienced difficulties with these latter two numbers. The OFCCP has since clarified that only the first six digits of your EEO-1 “Headquarter/Company” and “Establishment/Unit” Numbers are required. Your 2018 EEO-1 Headquarters/Company Number is seven digits long, but you’ll get an error message if you enter the seventh digit.
MORE USEFUL ADVICE FROM OUR BLOG | ‘The Why, How, and What of Good Faith Efforts: Why GFEs Are Important’
OFCCP Contractor Portal Dashboard and Settings
Once you’re in, you’ll be presented with four options:
- Manage Establishments or Functional/Business Units
- My Company
Until March 31, there won’t be much to see in the dashboard section, though this will ultimately be the most important: the AAP certification option is currently greyed out and “coming soon”. For now, organizations should look through the remaining sections. “Manage Establishments or Functional/Business Units” and “My Company” will allow you to confirm that all details in the system are correct and up to date.
Note that the data in these sections will be pulled from your 2018 EEO-1 filing. For some organizations, this will be very convenient. For others, it won’t reflect significant business changes that have since occurred. Additionally, EEO-1s and AAPs do not necessarily correlate one to one in general: you may have additional AAPs for smaller locations that won’t show up as an establishment based on the EEO-1 data alone. So, we recommend that you take a look at your establishments and square them with your AAPs sooner rather than later so that you have a smoother certification process later on.
Finally, the user tab allows you to add additional users and set up permissions for them. The first user is designated as an administrator: limited users can be assigned to specific establishments. This allows you to keep different sets of data isolated from other areas of the business if you’ve got a large number of plans to work with.
Go Beyond Certification: Create a Collaborative Approach to Affirmative Action Excellence
With the OFCCP intently focused on checking that AAPs are not only in place in a timely fashion, but updated annually, it’s a great time to consider how your plans could be doing more for your organizations all year round. Our guide, “How to Create a Collaborative Approach to Affirmative Action Excellence” explains the tweaks to your process that will future-proof your planning.