Administration: Hiring regs are not quotas

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A top Labor Department official on Wednesday rejected charges that new hiring benchmarks for federal contractors have created a quota system.

Patricia Shiu, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), told a congressional panel a pair of rules set to take effect in March will result in the hiring of more than 200,000 veterans and almost 600,000 disabled people.

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Shiu stressed that absolute quotas “are strictly forbidden,” and said the benchmarks are a way of promoting hiring of veterans and the disabled without punitive action.

“I believe what gets measured, gets done,” she said.

Under the regulations, contractors would have a goal of making sure that 7 percent of their hires are people with disabilities. The standard for veterans would be 8 percent but could fluctuate depending on the numbers of veterans in the workforce at any given time.

Factoring in the overlap between the two groups, Shiu said the rules would lead to more than 700,000 hires from sections of the American workforce that face unemployment rates higher than the national average.

Republicans on the House Education and Workforce subcommittee on Workforce Protections disagreed, arguing that the regulations would result in a mountain of new paperwork and potential penalties for companies who fall short of the benchmarks.

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), the subcommittee’s chairman, described the goals as arbitrary and argued, “the agency has the power to revoke a contract if employers fail to meet these so-called goals.”

Walberg railed against Shiu’s office, saying the OFCCP has benefitted from a 30 percent funding increase over the last four years, but has conducted fewer evaluations and audits of the companies it regulates.

Instead, he said, the agency is saddling employers with onerous new regulations.

“They want to follow the rules and do the right thing, but too often they are tied up in unnecessary regulations or tripped up by excessive red tape," the Michigan Republican said.

Democrats on the committee defended the regulations, saying they are merely aspirational. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), noting that the rules had already been finalized, brushed off the GOP criticism as political grandstanding.

“I don’t even know why we’re having this hearing,” Fudge said.

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