The following is the fourth blog in a series focusing on EEO requirements and best practices for federal contractors regarding website content. Part 1 in the series focused on posting and notice requirements. Part 2 addressed accommodations for web users. Part 3 examined online job postings. And Part 4 will address online job applications.
Federal contractors and subcontractors are that are required to develop affirmative action programs under Executive Order 11246 must collect gender, race, and ethnicity information from job candidates in order to prepare reports and analysis such as annual EEO-1 filings and adverse impact analysis on hiring procedures. Although the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has not mandated a particular method for collecting this information, the following should be considered when utilizing a self-identification form:
- Self-identification is voluntary. Many organizations have an option such as, “I choose not to identity”, on the form or have a means for applicants to skip selecting an option to move on to the next step of the application process.
- Declining to provide information on sex, race, and ethnicity cannot subject the applicant to any form of adverse treatment or have any negative consequences.
- The information collected must be kept confidential and cannot be utilized in making employment decisions.
- With respect to collecting information regarding sex, currently OFCCP does not require non-binary sex self-identification. If, however, the organization includes non-binary option for sex self-identification, they might need to still report non-binary employees in one of the two binary options recognized by the federal government.
- Despite the fact that the OFCCP’s regulations require contractors to solicit race/ethnicity data using particular race/ethnicity definitions, the agency allows contractors to instead use the same race/ethnicity designations and definitions as used for EEO-1 reporting purposes.
Contractors subject to the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act also must offer applicants an opportunity to voluntarily self-identify as a “protected veteran,” though we recommend against using that term as it can have negative connotations. Instead, consider referring to those who fall into one or more of the “protected veteran” categories as “VEVRAA veterans,” and the categories themselves as “VEVRAA categories.”
Collecting VEVRAA veteran information is necessary for contractors to assess the effectiveness of their outreach and recruitment efforts for veterans as well as allow contractors to comply with data collection requirements. Although the OFCCP does not have a mandated form that must be utilized to collect this information, the Agency does offer a sample VEVRAA self-identification form https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ofccp/vevraa/self-id-form that contractors can choose to utilize. Regardless of which self-identification form is utilized to collected VEVRAA veteran status, the following should be considered:
- The self-identification form should state the reason why applicants are being asked to complete the form per the organization’s obligation as a government contractor to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment VEVRAA veterans.
- The form should state that self-identifying is voluntary.
- The form should state that the information will be kept private and responses will not be used against the applicant in any way.
- Definitions of the following VEVRAA veteran classifications should be listed so that applicants can determine if they fall into one or more of the specific VEVRAA veteran categories. The following infographic can also be utilized to help applicants determined if they are covered under VEVRAA: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ofccp/veterans/protected-veterans
- Since 2014 contractors have not been required to solicit and maintain information about the specific VEVRAA veteran category or categories that might apply to a specific individual. Rather, they can simply ask if the individual falls into any of the categories, vastly simplifying the self-identification process.
- We recommend listing the “active duty wartime or campaign badge veteran” category first on your self-identification form. This is the category that will apply to the vast majority of veterans in the civilian labor force today.
- Contractors are not required to ask for the individual’s separation date. If you do, you arguably then create an obligation to “sunset” the VEVRAA veteran status of those who only qualify because they are “recently separated.”
BCGi’s sample veteran self-identification form includes two additional features. And because we really want to improve the way we honor our veterans, BCGi offers this sample form for free.
First, our form includes an option for people who have served in the U.S. military but do not fall into one or more of the specific VEVRAA categories. The veteran hiring benchmark must be analyzed using only VEVRAA veteran hires, but the point of the exercise is to evaluate the effectiveness of your veteran outreach and recruiting efforts. There is no such thing as organizations for recruiting only VEVRAA veterans, however, so it is reasonable to assess the need for increased outreach based on the total number of veterans applying for jobs, not just VEVRAA veterans. Only VEVRAA veterans “count” when assessing whether or not the benchmark was met, but all veterans can come into play when deciding what, if anything, to do about it when it is not.
Secondly, we include a way for people to opt-in or -out of things like veteran recognition and recruiting events. Not all veterans are okay with standing and being recognized for their service, or to be asked to represent service members at company events. Sometimes honoring someone’s service means leaving them be.
Lastly, federal contractors covered under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act are required to utilize Form CC-305, Voluntary Self-identification of Disability, to collect information regarding disability status from applicants and employees. Collecting applicant data regarding disability status is required to track the effectiveness of contractors’ outreach and recruitment practices for individuals with disabilities and conform with data collection requirements.
The required form was designed to be used as a paper form. Organizations are, however, allowed to create an online version of the form provided that the electronic version meets the following requirements:
- The OMB number and expiration date of the current self-identification form is displayed
- The complete text of Form CC-305 is displayed without any alteration except for the “For Employer Use Only” section which can be altered or removed
- The font utilized must be sans-serif font (e.g. Calibri or Arial)
- The font size must be at least 11-pitch
Organizations also must be mindful of the questions contained within the job application to ensure questions prohibited by federal, state, or local law are not being asked of applicants. For example, typically asking an applicant to state whether they are a U.S. citizen is not allowed. However, asking applicants if they are legally authorized to work in the United States is acceptable. Contractors should keep up-to-date with regulations regarding information that cannot be collected of applicants as laws have been passed within many states prohibiting questions regarding salary history as part of the application process.
The BCGi “Tips for Conducting a Website Review for Federal Contractors” webinar is coming up next week. Register today.