The existence of a clear and defined affirmative action plan is critical for organizations that do business with the federal government. A solid plan establishes guidelines for recruiting, hiring and promoting women and minorities to avoid employment discrimination. The intention is to give opportunities to groups that have been traditionally discriminated against. These plans are vital because they are the first thing that the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs sees during a compliance review.
A weak set of procedures and guidelines will cost a company millions of dollars in liabilities and can even shut their doors for good. Diana Younts is Managing Partner of First Advantage Consulting Firm. She helps organizations avoid issues related to affirmative action incompliance. Diana spent nearly ten years with the US DOL Office of OFCCP where she served as both an Equal Opportunity Specialist and Sr. Compliance Officer.
Today, she feels fortunate to be able to do what she enjoys. “I love what I do, because my passion is helping others. I experience pure joy when I am able to help a company avoid the headache of being audited or worse.” She said. Diana says that the first step in ensuring compliance is writing your company policies and guidelines down. She says that policies must not be assumed, but instead written. “A written policy minimizes any suspicions of discrimination and if unwritten, it leads to the perception of favoritism. Favoritism can foster disgruntled employees who wage complaints against the company they work for.” She said.
Companies have to be especially careful during the recruiting process. “Some people hire friends or relatives, but an actual job description that is posted and recruited for must be in place before anyone is hired. It is also pertinent to make sure that the candidate you choose fits the job qualifications.” She said.
Diana says that HR sets the pace when it comes to procedures and guidelines and remaining compliant. “HR has the daunting tasks of keeping up with constantly changing governmental policies and implementing procedures. They also hold managers accountable and keep the C-level executives up to date on changing regulations. They then have to tell employees of the changing policies that directly affect them.” She said.
Just this year, there were newly enacted policies that impact women and veteran workers. “New regulations require that 6.9% of the workforce is composed of women and 7.2% must be veteran. HR must not only keep track of the percentage of these groups that work for the company, but the government even wants them to account for the people who merely applied to positions as well, they have to be tracked too.” She said.
The Home Depot is a company that Diana recognizes as leading the way when it comes to affirmative action compliance and adopting solid policies and procedures. “During my role as Senior Compliance Officer with the government, I worked on an audit with The Home Depot CEO, Frank Blake. The first thing that he shared with me was his unwavering commitment to affirmative action compliance and EEOC guidelines.” She said.
Diana put his commitment to the test when she led a team of twelve other auditors and invaded The Home Depot corporate office. “We were these for four weeks and we found nothing derogatory.” She said. An organization might not be the size of THD, but any company can adopt the same solid commitment to Affirmative Action compliance.
Diana provided some advice on getting started. “Companies can try to get involved with good faith and outreach efforts. These efforts can decrease suspicions of discrimination. Also, keep a paper trail on everything you do and have all of your ducks in a row. Be sure to apply your procedures consistently. These key practices will set you on the road to successful compliance.” She said.