National Association of Government Contractors

Debarment Process Raises Concern in Agency Merger

One concern, among the many raised in response to the Trump administration's proposal to merge the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is relevant to the contracting community -- the possibility that the administrative process for banning a company from federal contracts could become politicized at the EEOC.

Business groups, civil rights advocates, and some lawmakers have already voiced opposition to the proposed merger of the agencies, which they say have different missions and goals.

However, particular concern is due when considering the debarment process, a process which may lead to an order canceling an employer's government contracts or barring the employer from obtaining future contracts.

Beyond concern to those on the contracting community, questions about how the process would be handled highlights differences between the two agencies.

With the EEOC, an employer could be barred if it's found to have discriminated against workers or is otherwise noncompliant with the law. However, the difference in agency enforcement, administrative procedure, and expertise vary greatly and may not be easy to reconcile.

The EEOC currently lacks the authority to cancel an employer's government contracts or bar an employer from obtaining future contracts if it's found to have discriminated against workers. But the OFCCP, which proactively audits federal contractors for affirmative action and nondiscrimination compliance, has the power to initiate administrative actions that could result in contractor “debarment,” though that occurs rarely.

The Trump administration in its budget proposal directed the OFCCP to develop a plan to support the merger process. Over at the EEOC, an internal working group has been established to consider issues raised by the proposed merger.

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