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Failure to Submit Signed JV Agreement Rendered Proposal Technically Unacceptable

In a decision publicly released on Friday, March 31, in CJW-Desbuild JV, LLC, B-414219 (Mar. 17, 2017), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest challenging the rejection of a proposal where the contractor had failed to provide a signed joint venture agreement with its proposal. In issuing the RFP, the Department of the Navy, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) stated that award of the construction and repair contract would be made on a best value basis, with price and non-price factors considered. The non-price evaluation factors were construction experience, safety, and past performance. With regards to the construction experience factor, the RFP instructed Joint Venture (JV) offerors to submit relevant project experience completed by the JV entity. If none existed, the RFP instructed JV members to submit individual project experience but to also submit a signed copy of the JV agreement indicating the proposed participation of each JV member. The RFP stated that failure to submit the agreement would be considered unacceptable. CJW-Desbuild JV was subsequently rated “unacceptable” under the construction experience factor for failure to provide the signed copy of its JV agreement. CJW Desbuild argued that its failure to submit a signed copy was a “minor oversight” and that it was “unreasonable” for the agency to downgrade its proposal. CJW Desbuild further argued that NAVFAC should have used clarifications in order to permit the JV to submit its signed agreement. The GAO disagreed and found that because the requirement for a signed JV agreement was specifically linked to technical acceptability, it could not be considered an informality. The GAO also concluded that the JV’s failure to provide its signed agreement could not have been remedied through clarifications, as clarifications cannot be used to cure deficiencies or material omissions in a proposal. Furthermore, the GAO noted that even if the protestor’s failure to submit the signed agreement had been a minor clerical error, the agency is permitted, but not required, to give it the opportunity to correct it via clarifications. About the Author: Heather Mims
Associate Attorney
Heather Mims is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting. Her practice is primarily focused on government contracts law, employment law, and litigation. Heather graduated magna cum laude from the George Mason School of Law where she was the Senior Research Editor for the Law Review and a Writing Fellow.   The post Failure to Submit Signed JV Agreement Rendered Proposal Technically Unacceptable appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Executive Order for More Accountability at Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has come under intense scrutiny from Congress, Veterans, and taxpayers in recent years in large part due to its patient wait time scandal. The first bills to pass the U.S. House of Representatives in the current 115th Congress included The Ensuring VA Employee Accountability Act. The Congress.gov website has numerous current bills pending pertaining to VA accountability, and there was no shortage of proposed accountability legislation in the 114th Congress. Now the President has weighed in as well. On April 27, 2017, President Trump traveled across Lafayette Park from the White House to the VA Central Office to sign Executive Order (EO) 13793, “Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protection at the Department of Veterans Affairs.” The intent of the EO is to improve accountability and whistleblower protection at VA. It directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection and to appoint a special assistant to serve as the office’s Executive Director. This new office must be established within 45 days of the EO (therefore, by June 11, 2017), and VA must provide funding and administrative support “consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.” The VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection shall advise and assist the Secretary in using, as appropriate, all available authorities to discipline or terminate a VA manager or employee who has violated the public’s trust and failed to carry out his or her duties on behalf Veterans and to recruit, reward, and retain high-performing employees. In addition, the office will identify statutory barriers to the Secretary’s authority to discipline or terminate any employee who has jeopardized the health, safety, or well-being of a Veteran, reporting such barriers to the Secretary for consideration as to the need for legislative changes. Finally, the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection is charged with the responsibility to work closely with VA components to ensure swift and effective resolution of Veterans complaints of wrongdoing at VA, ensure adequate investigation and correction of wrongdoing at VA, and protect employees who lawfully disclose wrongdoing from retaliation. The EO does provide the Secretary with some flexibility in establishing the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. The Secretary may consider whether some or all of the functions are currently performed by an existing VA office, component, or program and to determine if certain administrative capabilities necessary to operate the office are redundant. Additionally, the Secretary may consider whether combining VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection with another VA office, component, or program may improve VA’s efficiency, effectiveness, or accountability. A copy of EO 13793 was published in the Tuesday, May 2, 2017, edition of the Federal Register. About the Author: Wayne Simpson
Consultant
Wayne Simpson is a seasoned former Federal executive and acquisition professional who is also a highly-motivated and demonstrative small business advocate, with nearly 38 years of Federal Civilian Service with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and its predecessor organization, the Veterans Administration.   The post Executive Order for More Accountability at Department of Veterans Affairs appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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EPA Issues Final Rule on Self-Certification for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final rule regarding self-certification for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) in procurements under EPA financial assistance agreements, which will be effective on October 26, 2016 if no adverse comment is received. If an adverse comment is received by the EPA, the rule will be withdrawn. However, the EPA expects to receive no adverse comments. Current Major Components of the EPA’s DBE Program EPA’s DBE Program was first implemented through 40 CFR part 33 on March 26, 2008 with four major components program: DBE Certification, Negotiating Fair Share Goals, Good Faith Efforts, and Reporting Accomplishments. Currently, the DBE Certification process requires a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) or Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) to be certified as such by an appropriate agency (federal, state, locality, Indian Tribe, or qualifying independent private organization). The other current components of the program require that goals are established with the EPA, that there is an opportunity to compete for procurements, and that a report is sent to the EPA on the success of the program with respect to MBEs & WBEs. Key Changes This final rule makes three key changes to the EPA’s DBE program. The first is the creation of a self-certification platform. The second is the increase to the threshold to be exempted from negotiating fair share objectives from $250,000 to $1,000,000. The third and final change is that the frequency of reporting to the EPA has been revised to annually and the threshold of $150,000 is now codified. There are additional minor changes in the Final Rule, but the three above will have the most impact on an organization. Self-Certification Impact on Affected Organizations If your firm wishes to take advantage of this revision and is a qualifying organization, you will be able to self-certify through the Small Business Vendor Profile System at www.epa.gov. You will be required to provide the appropriate information and confirm that the eligibility requirements have been met. After certifying that you have met the eligibility requirements, no EPA review will be required. This change will significantly decrease the time it takes for organizations to be certified as MBEs or WBEs, as organizations will no longer be required to obtain other qualifying certification from the government. However, self-certification through the EPA’s DBE Program under the new rule will not be recognized by other organizations and such certification will remain valid only 3 years. Therefore, qualified organizations will continue to have an obligation to re-register to maintain their status as an MBE or WBE. Firms that choose to certify through this option will be published on the Office of Small Business Program’s web site, and you should always review the final rule for additional impacts it may have on your organization. About the Author Colin Johnson
Contracts Manager
Colin Johnson is a Contracts Manager who focuses on business development and federal contracts management. His expertise is in preparing quotes and responses for both government and commercial entities for training and legal support services. The post EPA Issues Final Rule on Self-Certification for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Centre Law & Consulting

Centre Law & Consulting

 

End of Summer Employment Law Developments

For those of you enjoying these last few days of summer, here is a quick hit guide to recent employment developments to be aware of before you rush back into the full swing of things: Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order The Department of Labor (DOL) announced yesterday that the final regulations implementing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order will be published today. The regulations (which cover contractor self-reporting of labor law violations) will become effective October 25, 2016 and will be implemented in phases. Stay tuned for more on these important new regulations! Severance Agreements The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has taken the position that severance agreements that require employees to forfeit subsequent monetary awards for whistleblowing violate Federal securities laws. In 2011, the SEC adopted a rule prohibiting any action that impedes communication with the SEC about potential securities law violations. The SEC has increasingly been reviewing severance agreements and potential violations of this rule. This culminated in two six-figure settlements announced earlier this month with companies that required employees to waive their right to any individual recovery arising from communicating with a government agency. This is language that is permitted by other Federal agencies, so companies should review their standard severance agreements to ensure that they are not running afoul of the SEC’s rules. DOL Settles Overtime Lawsuit It is being reported that the DOL recently settled its own decade-long lawsuit with a union for $7 million in back overtime wages owed to various white-collar employees at the DOL. Keep in mind this is the DOL, the Agency responsible for enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) along with other wage and hour laws. A quick take away is that the overtime regulations and classification of employees are complicated – even for the DOL! Perhaps this is a good time to remind you that the salary thresholds for Federal overtime exemptions are changing effective December 1, 2016. Is your company ready? Updated Workplace Posters The DOL has updated the mandatory workplace posters covering the FLSA and the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) effective August 1, 2016. The revised FSLA poster and EPPA poster are available from the DOL’s website. The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act poster was also recently updated in April. This may be a good time to review your workplace posters to ensure you have all the required and up to date postings. EEO-1 Due For employers with 100 or more employees or Federal Government contractors with 50 or more employees and covered contracts, don’t forget to complete your EEO-1 by September 30. The survey is now open. About the Author Marina Blickley
Associate Attorney
Marina Blickley is primarily focused in the Government Contracting and Non-Profit industries. She regularly assists clients in all aspects of employment and labor law including representation and defense of employers against claims of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation/whistleblower, and wage and hour violations before administrative agencies and state and federal courts.   The post End of Summer Employment Law Developments appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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EEOC Issues New Publication on Employer-Provided Leave Under ADA

Earlier this week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a publication related to the rights of individuals with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when requesting leave from work as a reasonable accommodation. While the ADA clearly requires employers provide qualified disabled individuals with a “reasonable accommodation” to permit the individual to perform the essential functions of the job, the entitlement to leave as such an accommodation has been a focus of the EEOC and litigation in recent years. The EEOC noted in its press release, that “[d]isability charges filed with the EEOC reached a new high in fiscal year 2015, increasing over 6 percent from the previous year” and that the EEOC has identified a “prevalence of employer policies that deny or unlawfully restrict the use of leave as a reasonable accommodation.” Thus, the publication seeks to provide general information related to assessing requests for leave under the ADA and also provides examples of leave requests and the EEOC’s determination of appropriate action. Employee requests for leave linked to medical conditions (e.g., stress, depression, etc.) have been on the rise including, for example, requests for telework, breaks, reduced schedules, and extended time off. Given the ADA’s now more expansive definition of disability, these requests must be assessed by employers for compliance with ADA in addition to other various state or federal laws prior to making a determination. Being informed about the ADA requirements is essential in ensuring these requests are handled in an appropriate manor. The required “interactive process” is not a one-size fits all approach and specifically contemplates a review of whether alternative forms of reasonable accommodations may be effective in meeting the employee’s needs. Thus, while an employee may seek leave as an accommodation, the employer may propose other accommodations that may permit the employee to return to work sooner or be more productive while at work. In addition, while the EEOC still has not provided a bright-line on what length or frequency of leave may become an undue burden, it is worth repeating that when an employee requests “indefinite leave” (i.e., leave without any indication as to when or whether the employee will return) the EEOC has determined that such leave would be an undue burden and, thus, not required to be provided by the ADA. This publication supplements other available resources available from the EEOC and should be consulted by those responsible for reviewing reasonable accommodation requests and company leave policies. The publication also covers modifications to existing leave policies, maximum leave policies, communication with employees on leave (including when returning to work from leaves covered by FMLA), the “interactive process” in assessing reasonable accommodation requests, and undue hardship considerations. About the Author: Marina Blickley
Associate Attorney
Marina Blickley focuses on the Government Contracting and Non-Profit industries. She regularly assists clients in all aspects of employment and labor law including employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation/whistleblower, compensation practices, and wage and hour violations. Marina also represents companies in commercial litigation matters concerning contract disputes, restrictive covenants/non-competes, business conspiracy, misappropriation of trade secrets, and computer fraud and theft.   The post EEOC Issues New Publication on Employer-Provided Leave Under ADA appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Earning Only 78% Of What A Similarly Situated Male Employee Is Paid? Call Me!

Alas, I am not expecting my phone to start ringing off the hook. But the week of “Equal Pay Day” is as good a time as any for contractors to kick the tires on their pay practices to ensure observed pay disparities are supported by legitimate differentiators. Perhaps no employment statistic is bandied about so frequently in politics and the press than the “gender pay gap” whereby women are purported to earn only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. With April 4 having been “Equal Pay Day,” much digital ink was getting spilled concerning female workers allegedly earning less than their male “counterparts.” Alas (again), most but not all of the click-bait tends to be hopelessly innumerate, failing to capture or account for legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for observed differences in the aggregate data from which the 78% figure is derived. Despite the political hand-wringing, the law surrounding individual pay discrimination is robust and well delineated. Indeed, in addition to pay discrimination being actionable under Title VII, since 1963 the federal Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) has required that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. All forms of pay are covered including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, allowances and reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits. The jobs need not be identical in every respect, but they must be “substantially equal.” Rather than relying upon particular job titles, a claimant must show that she and her male counterpart performed substantially equal work in terms of skill, effort, and responsibility. A job will be considered unequal, despite having the same general core responsibilities, if the more highly paid job involves additional tasks which (1) require extra effort, (2) consume a significant amount of the time, and (3) are of an economic value commensurate with the pay differential. Federal contractors subject to EO 11246 are expected to routinely evaluate their compensation systems to ensure that they are not resulting in discriminatory outcomes. The applicable regulations require that such “self-audits” assess whether race or gender-based compensation disparities exist, that the audits occur periodically, and that results be reported internally to management. While the OFCCP does not require a particular methodology, its own compliance officers are generally directed to review individual data, group data into pay grades or job groups, and conduct summary analyses. The CO is also to assess quantitative factors such as the size of any overall average pay differences based on race (minority vs. non-minority) and gender (female vs. male), the number of job groups where average pay differences exceed a certain threshold, or the number of employees negatively affected within job groups. In addition to the individualized EPA factors mentioned above, data such as particular skill or certifications; education; work experience; the position, level, or function; tenure in a position; performance ratings; and other compensation-related inputs should be considered. For smaller contractors, simple Excel “table and sort” analyses may be sufficient. For more complex employers, more sophisticated statistical analyses, such as multiple regression, may be appropriate and more valuable. If contractors are not already routinely performing these sorts of analyses (preferably in conjunction with counsel for privilege purposes), they should. Again, it’s required by EO 11246; and innumeracy around the “wage gap” notwithstanding, pay discrimination can and does occur. It is far cheaper to identify and remedy unexplained disparities without the involvement of the DOL or the courts. About the Author: David Warner
Partner
David Warner is a seasoned legal counselor with extensive experience in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David leads Centre’s audit, investigation, and litigation practices.   The post Earning Only 78% Of What A Similarly Situated Male Employee Is Paid? Call Me! appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Early Bird Rates Have Arrived on 2017 Training Courses

It’s that time of year again! Early bird rates have arrived on all 2017 training courses! Visit our Training Calendar to see the full slate of courses, and be sure to use code EARLYBIRD2017 to save $100 off your registration fee when signing up before December 30, 2016. The post Early Bird Rates Have Arrived on 2017 Training Courses appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Centre Law & Consulting

Centre Law & Consulting

 

Dumpster Fire, Constitutional Crisis, or Perhaps Just Business as Usual

Say what one will about our still-new President (and I will), there appear to be very few among the chattering class who hold a “neutral” view about him. A little over 100 days into his administration and certain corners are already routinely beating the drum of impeachment. And the ink spilled over the Comey firing and recent reports concerning what was either a benign discussion of known intelligence information (from one perspective) or the revealing of “highly classified information” to his Russian puppet masters (from another) suggest that the fever pitch of commentary is not going to be lowering in volume any time soon. And yet, if one sets both ends of the partisan hyperbole aside, a funny thing appears to be happening on the way to the dumpster fire which is purportedly the Trump Administration – governance. For example, while conservatives may be chafed by having to accept Alexander Acosta in lieu of the more ideologue burger exec Andrew Puzder at the head of the Department of Labor, the much maligned “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order” is already history. Many expect that the even more maligned, revised and expanded EEO-1 form (requiring reporting of pay data) is likely to end up in the dust bin this summer. Similarly, the legislative wrangling around the Affordable Care Act continues apace as well. On judicial appointments, seen by many as one of the signature issues of the campaign, Trump is also widely perceived as delivering on his promises. With the judicial filibuster having been “nuked” to clear the path for Neil Gorsuch to join the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump has been active in identifying slates of candidates for lower court benches. Last week, the White House announced Trump’s “third wave” of judicial appointments (following Gorsuch and the nomination of Judge Amul R. Thapar of Kentucky to serve as a Circuit Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit). Notably, two of the ten nominees – Professor Amy Coney Barrett of Notre Dame University Law School and Justice Joan Larsen of the Michigan Supreme Court – are former law clerks of the late-Justice Antonin Scalia, and another – David Stras of the Minnesota Supreme Court – was a clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas. Of course, not everyone is pleased with the selections, but we do seem to have come a long way from thoughts of nominating his sister to the high court. While I’m not one to believe that Trump (or his predecessor for that matter) is a master of three-dimensional political chess, which the rest of us rubes simply can’t comprehend, sometimes the allegedly oncoming dumpster fire or ill-conceived tweet looks an awful lot like “stray voltage.” Or, rather, business as usual in Washington, D.C. About the Author: David Warner
Partner
David Warner is a seasoned legal counselor with extensive experience in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David leads Centre’s audit, investigation, and litigation practices.   The post Dumpster Fire, Constitutional Crisis, or Perhaps Just Business as Usual appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Don’t Get Caught By the Federal Civil Penalties “Catch up” Adjustments

On June 7, 2016, the U.S. Department of State announced that it is implementing “catch-up” adjustments to the maximum amounts of the monetary penalties it assesses for regulatory violations. Under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, federal agencies must make a one time “catch-up” adjustment to their civil monetary penalties in order to account for inflation. Federal agencies are required to publish interim final rules with the initial penalty adjustment amounts by July 1, 2016, and the new penalty levels must take effect not later than August 1, 2016. The Penalties The U.S. Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls assesses penalties for violations of the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations. The following amounts will be assessed for certain violations after August 1, 2016, regardless of when the actual violation occurred: Each violation of The Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. §2778. This Act imposes export and import controls on certain defense articles and defense services. This includes registration, reporting, record keeping, and due diligence requirements, among many others. Previously, the maximum penalty was $500,000. The new maximum penalty will not exceed $1,094,010 per one violation. Each violation of the The Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. §2779a. This section of the Act prohibits incentive payments to satisfy any offset agreements under certain circumstances. Generally, any U.S. supplier of defense articles or services sold, licensed, or exported, among others, is prohibited from making any incentive payments for the purpose of satisfying, in whole or in part, any offset agreement with a foreign country. Defense offset agreements are understood as side agreements that provide additional incentives to the purchaser. Previously, the maximum penalty was $500,000. The new maximum penalty will not exceed $795,445 per one violation. Each violation of The Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. §2780. This section of the Act prohibits transactions with countries supporting acts of international terrorism. Transactions include exporting (directly or indirectly) or otherwise providing (by sale, lease, loan, grant, or other means) of any munitions items, providing credit guarantees, or otherwise facilitating the acquisition of any munitions. Previously, the maximum penalty was $500,000. The new maximum penalty will not exceed $946,805 per one violation. What Can I Do Before August 1, 2016? Have no fear and double-check whether you are compliant. The U.S. Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls expects each U.S. exporter of defense articles and services to have comprehensive operational compliance programs. This may include policies and procedures on: Corporate commitment to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) compliance Tracking of controlled items and technical data Due diligence and internal monitoring Training and awareness Penalties for violations Reporting non-compliance issues The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 allows the U.S. Department of State to exercise its discretion to determine whether it should assess civil monetary penalties lower than the maximum amount. If your compliance program identifies at least one ITAR violation, it may be beneficial to consider whether mandatory reporting is required and whether to report it before the maximum penalties increase on August 1, 2016. You can learn more about the U.S. export controls and compliance requirements on June 23, 2016 during our webinar on New Opportunities for Small Businesses and U.S. Exporters.
Note that is post is for educational use only and does not constitute legal advice.

About the Author: Wojciech Kornacki
Government Contract and Compliance Counsel
Wojciech Kornacki focuses on federal Government contract compliance, bid protests, and federal litigation. He represents clients in matters involving Government Accountability Office bid protests, federal agency debarments, Boards of Contract Appeals litigation, and Export Controls (ITAR and EAR) and Trade Agreements Act compliance.   The post Don’t Get Caught By the Federal Civil Penalties “Catch up” Adjustments appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Don’t be late! eSRS Submissions Due October 30, 2017

By Wayne Simpson Prime contractors with contracts containing commercial subcontracting plans are required to file a Summary Subcontract Report (SSR) (formerly Standard Form 295), reporting the accomplishments under their respective subcontracting plans in the Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System (eSRS) for the 12-month period ending September 30, 2017, no later than October 30, 2017. eSRS is the official Governmentwide System designated for small business subcontracting program reporting.  The system is web-based and is located at http://www.eSRS.gov. The eSRS website contains quick reference materials useful for reporting subcontracting accomplishments. Prime contractors with individual subcontracting plans, and higher-tier large business subcontractors, are required to file an Individual Subcontracting Report (ISR) (formerly Standard Form 294).  These same contractors are required to ensure compliance by lower-tiered subcontractors, and to accept or reject reports filed by these subcontractors.  ISRs are due within 30 calendar days of the following reporting periods: For non-Department of Defense (DOD), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and General Services Administration (GSA) Contracts: 1st reporting period: October 1st through March 31st 2nd reporting period: October 1st through September 30th For contracts with DOD, NASA, and GSA Multiple Award Schedule Contracts 1st reporting period: October 1st through March 31st 2nd reporting period: October 1st through September 30th For GSA non-Multiple Award Schedule Contracts: 1st reporting period: October 1st through December 31st 2nd reporting period: October 1st through March 31st 3rd reporting period: October 1st through June 30th 4th reporting period: October 1st through September 30th It is important to note if an eSRS submission is rejected by the contracting agency, the contractor must submit a corrected report within 30 calendar days of the report’s rejection.  It is important to keep a signed copy of your submission on file. If your subcontracting program is becoming more labor intense and resource consuming than you desire, Centre Law & Consulting offers turn-key subcontracting program services.  These services include subcontracting plan preparation and negotiation, surveying existing subcontractors and suppliers to ascertain appropriate size status and socioeconomic procurement preference program category status for eSRS reporting purposes, preparation of justification for goaling shortfalls, and assistance with eSRS submissions.  Increasingly companies are finding outsourcing these efforts is more efficient than using internal resources, using personnel who often performing these functions as a collateral responsibility.  Internal resources are not always sufficiently trained and lack the expertise to ensure these efforts fully comply with Federal requirements and ensure these efforts can withstand the scrutiny of a small business program review by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the contracting agency, or the Defense Contract Audit Agency. About the Author: Wayne Simpson
Consultant
Wayne Simpson is a seasoned former Federal executive and acquisition professional who is also a highly-motivated and demonstrative small business advocate, with nearly 38 years of Federal Civilian Service with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and its predecessor organization, the Veterans Administration. The post Don’t be late! eSRS Submissions Due October 30, 2017 appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Centre Law & Consulting

Centre Law & Consulting

 

DOL Releases New Opinion Letters Expanding FLSA Exemptions

By Tyler Freiberger, Following a nine-year gap, in January 2018 the Department of Labor (DOL) again began releasing voluntary opinion letters in response to common or unique questions. The initial batch of released letters only reinstated opinions from 2009 that had been withdrawn for “further consideration.” So the two letters released in April of this year, and the four released last week, are the first original works of the Trump administration’s DOL’s policies. I’ll warn you now, none of the opinion letters are exactly shocking, but they do give some indication of which way the wind is blowing. In general, the recent letters clarify some lesser used exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and favor employers. Of the six opinions issued since April five clarify that an employee would be exempt from the FLSA or not compensated for an activity. The fact patterns these letters respond to are very limited. Still, each letter leaves breadcrumbs employers may follow in the future. The only letter arguably in favor of employees really just tries to put travel for non-traditional work schedules into context. No surprise in DOL assertion that travel time during the normal workday, for work, is compensable. Interestingly, the agency drew from an opinion letter half a century old to state “the employer and employee (or the employee’s representatives) may negotiate and agree to a reasonable amount of time or timeframe in which travel outside of employees’ home communities is compensable.” Citing WHD Opinion Letter (March 17, 1964). While this is only in the context of employees permanently working on the road, it is still an important win for employers, whom ideally could simply contract out exactly what hours are compensable and those that are not. The other letters are less far reaching, but in the aggregate show a trend toward chipping away at employer obligations.  First, hourly employees choosing to participate in voluntary health screenings, fairs, or other wellness activities, during or outside working hours, are not entitled to pay if the employer receives no direct financial benefit. Next, employees taking frequent breaks for medical reasons under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are only entitled to the same amount of paid breaks as their co-workers. The DOL also clarified two uncommon overtime exceptions apply to some modern businesses, mobile credit card reader salespersons, and food servers at high-end movie theaters. Lastly, the agency clarified the line between a volunteer and an employee. While the letters do not have legal authority in a civil claim, they do indicate what activity the DOL will be hunting for in audits or investigations.   About the Author: Tyler Freiberger
Associate Attorney
Tyler Freiberger is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting primarily focusing on employment law and litigation. He has successfully litigated employment issues before the EEOC, MSPB, local counties human rights commissions, the United States D.C. District Court, Maryland District Court, and the Eastern District of Virginia.       The post DOL Releases New Opinion Letters Expanding FLSA Exemptions appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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DOL Raises (and Lowers) Health and Welfare Fringe Rate for Service Contractors

Just when you thought Service Contract Act compliance couldn’t get any more complicated, along comes the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) to prove you wrong. Last week, the DOL issued All Agency Memorandum No. 225 which increased the applicable Health and Welfare (“H&W”) fringe rate from $4.27 per hour to $4.41 effective today, August 1, 2017. While the adjustment to H&W was expected, the DOL’s actions with respect to federal contracts subject to Executive Order 13706 was not. As a refresher, Executive Order 13706 established mandatory paid sick leave for federal contractors. Specifically, the Order requires covered contractors to provide employees with up to 56 hours (seven days) of paid sick leave annually, including for family care and absences resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. The requirement applies to new contracts with the federal government that result from solicitations issued on or after January 1, 2017 (or that are awarded outside the solicitation process on or after January 1, 2017). In an unexpected development, AAM No. 225 noted that “[e]mployer contributions that are made to satisfy the employer’s obligations under EO 13707 may not be credited toward the contractor’s [H&W] obligations under the SCA.” The Memorandum continued, “[t]o comply with EO 13706, an alternate health and welfare rate has been established that excludes the sick leave portion of the calculated health and welfare rate.” Specifically, as of August 1, 2017, the H&W rate for contracts subject to EO 13706 will be $4.13 per hour – i.e., $.28 lower than the $4.41 H&W rate applicable to contracts that do not require paid sick leave. While reasonable minds can differ over whether this reduced rate is in fact necessary “to comply with EO 13706,” fallout from the lower alternative rate will likely be immediate. First, affected employees receiving cash in lieu of benefits will undoubtedly note the reduction in pay. In addition, affected contractors may be required to provide negative contract price adjustments in light of the H&W rate decrease. Finally, it will be necessary for contractors to monitor contracts and task orders to determine the appropriate rate particularly as the EO 13706 becomes more prevalent as legacy contracts expire and are replaced by contracts solicited after January 1, 2017. About the Author: David Warner
Partner
David Warner is a seasoned legal counselor with extensive experience in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David leads Centre’s audit, investigation, and litigation practices. The post DOL Raises (and Lowers) Health and Welfare Fringe Rate for Service Contractors appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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DOD Attempted to Drastically Shorten Bid Protest Deadline at Court of Federal Claims

By Heather Mims Currently, an unsuccessful offeror may file a protest with the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) and, if the protest is denied, file suit at the United States Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”). However, the Department of Defense (“DOD”) sought to change that. On April 3, 2018, the DOD submitted its Fourth Package of Legislative Proposals Sent to Congress for Inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. Of particular interest to contractors, DOD sought to amend the Tucker Act to impose timeliness rules at the COFC (“COFC”) where no specifical timeliness rules have existed. Specifically, DOD sought to impose timeliness rules that mirror those of the GAO, which would mean that a contractor would have to file a protest at the COFC within ten days of when it knew or should have known of its protest ground. Therefore, a contractor would be forced to choose its venue and file its bid protest within these initial ten days. In fact, DOD’s proposal specifically modifies the Tucker Act to state that under no circumstances will the COFC consider a protest that is untimely because it was first filed at the GAO. However, the DOD’s proposal does not limit agency-level protests. As such, a contractor could still submit a protest to the agency and, if denied, either file a protest at the GAO or submit a claim at the COFC within ten days of the agency’s denial. While the Senate’s proposed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 did not include this suggested change, it does require the Secretary of Defense to carry out a study of the frequency and effects of bid protests involving the same DOD contract award or proposed award that have been filed at both the GAO and the COFC. It also requires the Secretary to establish a data collection system to better track and analyze bid protest trends in the future. This decision comes after Fiscal Year 2017’s NDAA required “a comprehensive study on the prevalence and impact of bid protests on Department of Defense acquisitions, including protests filed with contracting agencies, the Government Accountability Office, and the Court of Federal Claims.” The RAND Corporation was commissioned to provide this study; its report, provided to Congress in December 2017, found that the number of COFC cases that previously appeared at the GAO may be increasing but “this potential trend needs further research.” Thus, it appears that Congress is seriously considering DOD’s proposal as it has requested further research on this topic. Don’t be surprised if you see DOD propose this legislative change again next year!   About the Author: Heather Mims
Associate Attorney
Heather Mims is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting. Her practice is primarily focused on government contracts law, employment law, and litigation. Heather graduated magna cum laude from the George Mason School of Law where she was the Senior Research Editor for the Law Review and a Writing Fellow.   The post DOD Attempted to Drastically Shorten Bid Protest Deadline at Court of Federal Claims appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Do You See a Link Between Maintaining Your GSA Schedule and the Movie Psycho?

By Maureen Jamieson As quoted by Norman Bates in Psycho – “She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?” I’m not naming names, but I have worked with many clients who have gone quite mad when working to ensure compliance with their GSA Schedules. Having just celebrated Halloween, I am reminded of some frightening misconceptions surrounding GSA Schedules. Maintaining compliance with your schedule can be a grueling experience. Let’s not forget that blood-curdling stress as you prepare to meet or talk to your Industrial Operations Analyst (IOA) or that bone-chilling realization that you forgot to pay your Industrial Funding Fee (IFF) on time. Do you understand GSA’s current terms and conditions? Do you have the knowledge to ensure compliance with your GSA Schedule? Take Centre’s True or False quiz (with answer key below) beginning with our teams most frequently asked questions: The Maximum Order Threshold (MOT) established for a GSA Schedule contract serves as a limit on the dollar value of individual task orders placed under that Schedule. GSA contractors must accept the Governmentwide purchase card for orders under the micro-purchase threshold ($3,500). The 0.75% Industrial Funding Fee (IFF) is already included in the price of items on GSA Advantage!. An advantage for sellers under Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) orders is that the Government has no audit rights. Participating Dealers on a Schedule contract may bill the government directly on behalf of the Schedule holder. A digital certificate is required to report sales and pay the Industrial Funding Fee (IFF) in the new Transactional Data Reporting (TDR) FAS Sales Reporting System. GSA/VA Schedule Price Lists submitted via the Schedules Input Program (SIP) are automatically posted to GSA Advantage. Multiple modification actions such as economic price adjustments and deletion mods can be combined in one modification and submitted via the eMod system. Only authorized negotiators with signature authority and digital certificates are permitted to submit certain modifications and sign modifications in the eMod system. Digital certificates automatically renew every two years. Not maintaining compliance with the terms and conditions of your GSA Schedule can cost your company money, time and unwanted stress. If you’re feeling GSA stress or just want to learn more about GSA Schedules, consider attending our GSA Boot Camp on November 14 and 15 at Centre’s office located in Tysons, VA. See our website for details. ANSWER KEY: 1) False 2) True 3) True 4) False 5) True 6) True 7) False 8) False 9) True 10) False The post Do You See a Link Between Maintaining Your GSA Schedule and the Movie Psycho? appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Trick question, how much does the government charge contractors to register for SAM or any other government database?  The answer is zero, zip, zilch.   There is no charge to register for any government database.  And neither the Wizard of Oz nor any of these vendors can get you no bid contracts from any federal agency. Let’s start with Mr. Pirolo and his FEMA contract registration scheme. FEMA Contract Registration.   Michael Pirolo, the owner of Government Contract Registry (GCR) was sentenced to four years and two months in federal prison for wire fraud. Pirolo served as the president of GCR doing business as FEMA Contract Registration. He employed telemarketers who, during communications with victim-companies, falsely claimed that, for a fee, GCR would “register” the companies with FEMA to enable them to receive preference in obtaining contracts from FEMA.  The telemarketers stated that for a one-time fee of $500, the customer would be registered with FEMA, and that this registration would place the customer on a list of preferred vendors. When the need for a vendor arose, the GCR telemarketer falsely stated that FEMA would bypass the contract acquisition process, contact the registered victim-company, and then offer a no-bid contract.  Mr. Pirolo netted hundreds of thousands of dollars before he was caught. https://www.justice.gov/usao-mdfl/pr/palm-harbor-man-sentenced-prison-defrauding-more-1000-companies-over-fema-contracts SAM Registration.   There are companies who market their services to federal contractors to handle their SAM registration renewals.  These companies require you to give them your password and user name for SAM.  Then they charge you for updating your SAM registration.  Your SAM update is always free on www.sam.gov.   I don’t even have time to tell you about all the GSA Schedule emails I get about the wonderful world of no bid contracts that I will get from GSA once I sign up with this GSA Schedule vendor.  Centre Law has its own PSS Schedule so I see what is going on in the industry.  My inbox is full of these types of emails. Here is a screenshot from one of the many emails from vendors that I receive.  I had to input information on several different screens before I got to the one below.  In my opinion, it looks like an official government website but it is not. It does not appear obvious at first, but the company does note on its website that it is a private company: “U.S. Contractor Administration is not a government agency. We are a third-party federal registration processing firm.”   About the Author Barbara Kinosky
Managing Partner
Barbara Kinosky has more than twenty-five years of experience in all aspects of federal government contracting and is a nationally known expert on GSA and VA Schedules and the Service Contract Act. She has a proven track record of solving complex issues for clients by providing strategic and business savvy advice. Barbara was named a top attorney for federal contracting by Smart CEO magazine in 2010, 2012, and 2015.     The post Dirty Rotten Scoundrels appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Department of Labor Publishes Final Rule For OFCCP Sex Discrimination Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule revising its sex discrimination guidelines for federal contractors found at 41 CFR Part 60-20. The final rule is effective August 15, 2016, is the first significant change to the guidelines since 1970, and it clarifies DOL positions with respect to issues of compensation, pregnancy, and harassment among others. Unsurprisingly given recent amendments to EO 11246, the Rule also provides specific guidance with respect to issues regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. While it will take time for contractors and counsel to digest all 195 pages of the final Rule notice, one section of immediately accessible interest is the Rule’s appendix concerning “Best Practices,” which, while technically voluntary, provide insight into the DOL’s perspective and priorities with respect to sex discrimination. Specifically, the Rule states the following as best practices for contractors: Avoiding the use of gender-specific job titles such as “foreman” or “lineman” where gender-neutral alternatives are available Designating single-user restrooms, changing rooms, showers, or similar single-user facilities as sex-neutral Providing, as part of the broader accommodations policies, light duty, modified job duties or assignments, or other reasonable accommodations to employees who are unable to perform some of their job duties because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions Providing appropriate time off and flexible workplace policies for men and women Encouraging men and women equally to engage in caregiving-related activities Fostering a climate in which women are not assumed to be more likely to provide family care than men Fostering an environment in which all employees feel safe, welcome, and treated fairly by developing and implementing procedures to ensure that employees are not harassed because of sex. Examples of such procedures include: Communicating to all personnel that harassing conduct will not be tolerated Providing anti-harassment training to all personnel Establishing and implementing procedures for handling and resolving complaints about harassment and intimidation based on sex. While certain of the prescriptions fall squarely within the realm of “Personnel Management 101,” the recommendation regarding gender neutral restrooms and similarly facilities furthers the theme of 2016 as the “Year of The Restroom Wars”. Although the guidance is not intended to substantively change contractors’ legal obligations, contractors would be well counseled to take the opportunity to review their leave and benefit policies and practices to ensure that they are in line with the DOL’s regulations and its emphasis on gender neutrality with respect to all employment practices. About the Author: David Warner
Partner
David Warner is a seasoned counselor in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David has extensive experience representing contractors in affirmative action, Davis-Bacon Act, and Service Contract Act compliance audits. He also represents businesses with regard to wage and hour compliance, DOL audits, and litigation.   The post Department of Labor Publishes Final Rule For OFCCP Sex Discrimination Guidelines appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Dear Pentagon: $10 Billion is Plenty to Share

By Barbara Kinosky, The Pentagon is in quite the debacle with tech giant, Oracle – who filed a pre-award protest challenging the DoD’s single-award approach on the much anticipated $10 billion cloud computing contract. This massive contract called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, cleverly abbreviated as JEDI, is causing a lot of hoopla in the technology industry. Oracle’s protest is so far in advance of pre-award it is in a new category of “protest before contractors have even submitted proposals”. Clearly, Oracle is looking at the single source cloud award the CIA made to Amazon and is worried about the winner take all JEDI award that would give the awardee a huge platform within DoD for even more work. You can read the entire story written by Aaron Gregg for the Washington Post. I can understand Oracle’s frustration and commend them for fighting for multiple award. It even inspired me to put it in song: (Adele – “Hello” parody) Hello, it’s me
Oracle with cloud cap-a-bility
I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet
To go over everything
They say that time’s supposed to heal ya
But I ain’t done much healing When I’m excluded from the dealing Hello, can you hear me
I’m in Washington DC, dreaming about the contract we would see
For cloud cap-a-bility
When we were all one family We are willing to share, in the 10-billion-dollar deal We just want multiple award!
At least you can say that we tried
To foster, innovation
But you say just one award Hello from the other side
I must have called a thousand times
To ask you, if you wouldn’t mind
Changing the solicitation
to promote competition
But you say just one award, is what you want to see
For simplicity Hello from the outside
At least we can say that we’ve tried
To reach a resolution, we’re sorry for what we had to do
But we really tired our mostest
To avoid this bid protest Don’t worry, I won’t be quitting my day job to become a songwriter. But you get the point. About the Author: Barbara Kinosky
Managing Partner
Barbara Kinosky is the Managing Partner of Centre Law and Consulting and has more than twenty-five years of experience in all aspects of federal government contracting. Barbara is a nationally known expert on GSA and VA Schedules and the Service Contract Act, and she has served as an expert witness for federal government contracting cases.   The post Dear Pentagon: $10 Billion is Plenty to Share appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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David Warner to Be Featured Speaker at Next NCMA Greater Baltimore Meeting

If you are in the Baltimore area, join David Warner at the next NCMA Greater Baltimore Chapter meeting. On May 11, David will be the featured speaker presenting the “Annual Update on Federal Contracting and Legislation” where he’ll look back at the first 100+ days of the Trump Administration and review the latest legislation on the Hill, Executive Order and FAR updates, changes in the small business rules, employment regulations, bid protests, and news on the GSA Schedules. What:   NCMA Greater Baltimore Chapter meeting
Date:    May 11, 2017
Time:    11:30am – 1:00pm (lunch included)
Where: National Electronics Museum in Linthicum, MD Find out more and register at Events page of the chapter’s website. Register before April 24 to receive early bird discounted rates. Attendees at this event earns 1 CPE/CPU to include certificate.
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David Warner on Federal Drive with Tom Temin

On September 15, 2015, President Obama signed the Executive Order requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to at least seven days per year. It presents both a cost and an administrative burden. David Warner, partner at Centre Law and Consulting joined Federal Drive with Tom Temin to explain what this means to contractors. Hear the interview.   David Warner and Tom Temin. Photo credit: Eric White, Federal News Radio The post David Warner on Federal Drive with Tom Temin appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Cybersecurity for Federal Contractors: You Are Ready, Aren’t You?

Dec. 31, 2017 should be an important date for Department of Defense contractors, since by that date you will be expected to be following the cybersecurity requirements of the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-171, “Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Information Systems and Organizations.”  Although this deadline specifically applies to the DOD, all federal contractors should be familiar with the NIST standards for Non-Federal Organizations, since every federal agency expects that its contractors will have an adequate security policy in place. The information that is covered is not classified, but might be considered sensitive.  It is the type of business information that a company would keep confidential.  The NIST requirements, outline requirements in the following areas: Access Control Awareness And Training Audit And Accountability Configuration Management Identification And Authentication Incident Response Maintenance Media Protection Personnel Security Physical Protection Risk Assessment Security Assessment System And Communications Protection System And Information Integrity The requirements are logical, and the NIST publication breaks down each of the categories into “Security Requirements” that every organization should be doing in any case.  For example, under category 2, Awareness Training, the Basic Security Requirements list the following: Ensure that managers, systems administrators, and users of organizational information systems are made aware of the security risks associated with their activities and of the applicable policies, standards, and procedures related to the security of organizational information systems. Ensure that organizational personnel are adequately trained to carry out their assigned information security-related duties and responsibilities. Provide security awareness training on recognizing and reporting potential indicators of insider threat. Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) 252.204-7012  Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting, is the source of the December 31, 2017 requirement.  While the NIST document includes incident response requirements as part of its standards, DFARS 252.204-7012 also makes explicit that security breaches (“cyber incidents”) must be rapidly reported to the Department of Defense. DOD contractors must have their systems in place to follow these requirements by year end.  But other federal contractors should be ready as well.   About the Author Theodore Banks concentrates his practice on antitrust, compliance, food law, and other corporate matters. Mr. Banks has extensive experience with corporate litigation, including responsibility for contested mergers, environmental contamination, advertising, insurance coverage, products liability, employment law, consumer protection, and packaging and recycling. He has a national reputation for work in corporate compliance and antitrust, and was an early proponent of corporate opt-out suits as plaintiff in antitrust litigation, such as Vitamin, Carbon Dioxide, Corrugated Container, Folding Carton, and Citric Acid Antitrust Litigation, recovering more than $100 million. Through his experience in all aspects of the food industry, Mr. Banks has deep familiarity with the regulatory frameworks and state and federal laws governing food manufacture, distribution, sales, and safety. The post Cybersecurity for Federal Contractors: You Are Ready, Aren’t You? appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Count Your Blessings- A Thousand DOL Audit Letters Never Looked So Good

By Tyler Freiberger To much international acclaim, earlier this year Iceland introduced a new equal pay act to fight discrimination against protected classes, particularly historically underpaid women. The introduction of the Act made the cover of Time magazine and garnered wide-spread attention on the 24-hour news networks’ cycles. While the historic Act may warrant such coverage, for domestic industry insiders the celebration of Iceland’s legislative prioritization of gender equality may ring a bit hollow, as the United States’ passed the Equal Pay Act over half a century ago. And, as Centre has discussed in the past, pay discrimination has been illegal ever since. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) made a related show of force on the issue through its Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”), issuing a thousand letters to government contractors advising that it may audit contractors for compliance with non-discrimination/affirmative action obligations, including matters of pay equity. Clearly, the global march towards gender equality moves forward, but before we rush toward an “Icelandic model,” there are complicated issues to address. First, there are clear conceptual differences between Iceland’s new model and the United States’ system. The “big move” of the Icelandic law is to demand that employers prove they are not paying women less than men; in contrast, the American system places that burden on the employee attempting to prove their case. Despite that variance in burden of proof, U.S. contractors reading these audit letters from DOL are likely not celebrating an easy road to compliance. In fact, with a recent groundbreaking study out of Stanford, it is clear employers can have a very thin rope to walk when attempting to eliminate a purported “pay gap.” American anti-discrimination laws are based upon the principle that, assuming an absence of discrimination all people will be equally represented and compensated in the workforce. Therefore, if a class of people are underrepresented/under-compensated in a workforce, something is wrong in the employer’s process. Yet, the law is clear that employers cannot make employment decisions based on gender, even if that decision is directly made to further affirmative action goals – i.e., “reverse” discrimination remains illegal even in an affirmative action context. Instead, the employer is meant to study its workforce, identify inequalities, and identify what gaps exist in its process that lead to inequality. Perhaps it is where the employer is recruiting, how it qualifies candidates, who it chooses to make hiring decisions, or what criteria the employer uses to advance current employees.  The hundreds of government contractors recently receiving the OFCCP letters will be performing exactly these analyses. Imagine then, if a hard look at your workforce reflected men earning 7% more an hour than women for doing the exact same job; how do you react? It is expressly unlawful to purposely increase women’s pay 7% more an hour, so necessarily employers must identify what in their processes has caused the inequality.  For context, this is the scenario Uber finds itself in after the aforementioned Stanford study. Upon examining over a million Uber rides in the Chicago area, researchers noted a substantial pay gap between male and female drivers, while “the average of rider ratings of drivers is statistically indistinguishable between genders.” In sum, women are making less money, while performing the same job, with equal customer satisfaction, and being paid through a computer algorithm where driving X distance at Y time results in a computer-generated rate. Discrimination, right? Well, maybe not. What makes the results so interesting is that under the Uber model, riders and drivers are assigned without gender preference; and, simultaneously riders are fined if they reject the driver pre-pickup. This essentially creates a double-blind system of assigning work. Preference for a male driver over a female driver – i.e. canceling a female driver’s pickup – awards the driver and punishes the rider. And, the study shows no (or at most very little) such driver selecting preference. Rather, the data revealed that the largest cause of the pay gap to be arising from the specific (and varying) times men and women decide to drive. Other than amending its scale to pay women more per ride than men, how might we (or Iceland) assert that Uber solve this problem? And is there even a “problem” to solve? If you are an American company sweating over a similar gap in your workforce, we can offer some relief. While American employers should always be exploring these questions, and considering solutions, the “unknown” currently goes in the employer’s favor. In the United States, employees still must present evidence isolating and identifying the discrete element in the hiring or compensation processes that allegedly produces the discriminatory outcome. See EEOC v. Freeman, 961 F. Supp. 2d 783 (D. Md. 2013), aff’d in part sub nom. E.E.O.C. v. Freeman, 778 F.3d 463 (4th Cir. 2015). Still, under either the U.S. or Iceland model, you do not want to be the last to know.   About the Author: Tyler Freiberger
Associate Attorney
Tyler Freiberger is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting primarily focusing on employment law and litigation. He has successfully litigated employment issues before the EEOC, MSPB, local counties human rights commissions, the United States D.C. District Court, Maryland District Court, and the Eastern District of Virginia.   The post Count Your Blessings- A Thousand DOL Audit Letters Never Looked So Good appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Costs for Filing Bid Protest Denied Even When Agency Does Not Dispute a Meritorious Protest

In a recent GAO decision, Boise Cascade Wood Products, LLC, B-413987.2 (Apr. 3, 2017), the GAO denied a small business’ request for reimbursement of the costs of filing and pursing a bid protest where the protester argued that the agency unduly delayed taking corrective action in the face of a clearly meritorious protest. In this matter, the protester pursued a protest against the Forest Service, which involved both a timber sale and a procurement of services. Specifically, the Forest Service issued a solicitation for a forest stewardship contract, which typically also involves the sale of timber or forest products and the performance of certain services. What gives this decision its interesting twist is that the Forest Service’s implementing regulations provide that when the value of timber removed through the contract exceeds the total value of the services, it shall be considered a contract for the sale of property. As a general matter, sales by a federal agency are not procurements of property or services and are not within the GAO’s bid protest jurisdiction. However, the GAO will consider protests concerning sales by a federal agency if that agency has agreed in writing to have protests decided by the GAO; the Forest Service has expressly agreed to this, creating a non-statutory agreement with the GAO. In this case, as the value of the timber significantly exceeded the value of the services, the agency determined to solicit the contract as a timber sale. As such, the GAO found that the cost reimbursement request was precluded by its regulations, which establish that it will not recommend the payment of protest costs in connection with non-statutory protests. About the Author: Heather Mims
Associate Attorney
Heather Mims is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting. Her practice is primarily focused on government contracts law, employment law, and litigation. Heather graduated magna cum laude from the George Mason School of Law where she was the Senior Research Editor for the Law Review and a Writing Fellow.   The post Costs for Filing Bid Protest Denied Even When Agency Does Not Dispute a Meritorious Protest appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Cooperating with DOL Investigation Does Not Protect You from Debarment

On December 28, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) filed a complaint with the DOL Office of Administrative Law Judges seeking debarment of a contractor for violation of the Service Contract Labor Standards (formerly the Service Contract Act). The contractor, Restaurant Associates LLC, runs the cafeteria in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Even though Restaurant Associates won a seven year contract extension in December 2015 to continue operating the cafeteria, the company would be prohibited from bidding on future government contracts but would be permitted to retain that contract through the extension. The DOL’s investigation began in July when they first alleged that Restaurant Associates violated the SCA by misclassifying hundreds of workers. However, what makes this case particularly interesting is that the company had no history of previous SCA violations and fully cooperated with the DOL investigation. In complying with the DOL investigation, the company agreed to and did pay $1,008,302 in back wages for 674 cafeteria workers. Despite paying the back wages, the DOL is now seeking to debar the contractor. Perhaps the DOL is seeking debarment based on the circumstances surrounding the DOL investigation. The investigation first began after a complaint was submitted to the DOL alleging that Restaurant Associates unlawfully changed worker job classifications to avoid giving raises that were contained in the December 2015 contract renewal. After the investigation, the DOL found that the company had improperly classified workers both by paying them for lower-paying jobs than they actually performed and by requiring employees to work prior to their scheduled starting times without compensation. This will be an interesting case to follow as it develops. In the meantime, you can read the DOL Complaint and the DOL news release from the July investigation. About the Author: Heather Mims
Associate Attorney
Heather Mims is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting. Her practice is primarily focused on government contracts law, employment law, and litigation. Heather graduated magna cum laude from the George Mason School of Law where she was the Senior Research Editor for the Law Review and a Writing Fellow.   The post Cooperating with DOL Investigation Does Not Protect You from Debarment appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Contractors: Think Your Government Doesn’t Care? — Think Again!

By Wayne Simpson, CFCM, CSCM The government has on occasion been accused of treating offerors and contractors unfairly, if not downright poorly.  Perhaps from time to time you even perceive being treated unfairly in the conduct of a procurement.  Sadly, we hear this all the time.  But now the government is considering the potential benefits of obtaining voluntary feedback surveys from the vendor community on a regular basis. The Department of Defense (DoD), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are considering an amendment to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to establish a standard survey for obtaining voluntary feedback from actual and potential offerors on government contracts and solicitations.  They are seeking the public’s input, especially from government contractors, on a Proposed Rule published in the July 23, 2018, edition of the Federal Register.  Interested parties may submit written comments on or before September 21, 2018, in order to be considered in formulation of the proposed rule (see below for how to submit comments).  The Proposed Rule effects FAR Part 42, Contract Administration and Audit Services; and FAR Part 52, Solicitation Clauses and Provisions. In 2015, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) issued guidance to test the use of a standard survey allowing offerors, whether or not they received an award, to rate the agency’s pre-award and debriefing process for specific solicitations. Under the guidance issued at the time, interested offerors were invited, at their discretion, to rate and provide comments regarding the issuance of solicitations covering a wide range of requirements, including solicitations for information technology, medical equipment, and management support services.  Survey questions asked offerors for input regarding satisfaction with the pre-solicitation activities, solicitation documents, evaluation criteria, and the debriefing process.  The survey tool may be accessed at:  https://www.acquisition.gov/360. Data from initial surveys was limited in scope, but some trends did emerge.  For example, contractors rated the robustness of agency debriefings with the lowest satisfaction scores in both iterations of the survey.  This informed OFPP’s education and outreach efforts in its memorandum, “Myth-busting 3, Further Improving Industry Communications with Effective Debriefings,” issued January 5, 2017. OFPP, DoD, GSA, and NASA believe establishing a standard process in the FAR for obtaining voluntary feedback following a contract award will provide more meaningful insight on ways to strengthen the contracting process than can be derived by relying on ad hoc or periodic agency satisfaction surveys. Language is being considered to encourage contracting officers, in accordance with agency policy, to invite interested sources—actual and potential offerors—to provide feedback on various aspects of the pre-award acquisition process and debriefings, with a particular emphasis on how information is communicated.  Submissions are intended to be anonymous and for internal Government improvements only.  Voluntary participation would not bestow respondents any direct benefits or protections in the acquisition process or any subsequent protests. In addition, OFPP, DoD, GSA, and NASA are considering language encouraging Government acquisition officials to elicit feedback from their contractors on the agency’s performance of its contract administration responsibilities. The Federal Register notice contains a request for respondents to offer their feedback on the Proposed Rule, including the underlying survey questions, and nine questions specifically included in the notice.  The survey is available online at:  https://www.acquisition.gov/360. If you would like to comment on the Proposed Rule, you may use any of the following methods: Via the Federal eRulemaking Portal Submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking portal (http://www.regulations.gov) by entering “FAR Case 2017-014” under the heading “Enter Keyword or ID” and selecting “Search”. Select the link “Comment Now” that corresponds with “FAR Case 2017-014”. Follow the instructions provided on the screen. Please include your name, company name (if any), and “FAR Case 2017-014” on your attached document. Via U.S. Mail U.S. General Services Administration
Regulatory Secretariat Division (MVCB)
1800 F Street NW, Second floor
Attn: Ms. Lois Mandell
Washington, DC 20405. Instructions Instructions: Please submit comments only and cite “FAR case 2017-014” in all correspondence related to this case. All comments received will be posted, without change, to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal and/or business confidential information provided. To confirm receipt of your comment(s), please check http://www.regulations.gov, approximately two to three days after submission to verify posting (except allow 30 days for posting of comments submitted by mail).     Enjoy your freedom?  Thank a Veteran!!
Donate to a Veterans Services Organization   About the Author: Wayne Simpson
Consultant
Wayne Simpson is retired from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after 38 years of federal service. He served as the Executive Assistant to VA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition and Logistics where he was the primary staff advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary, who serves concurrently as VA’s Senior Procurement Executive and Debarring Official.       The post Contractors: Think Your Government Doesn’t Care? — Think Again! appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Communication, Consistency and … the OFCCP?

By David Warner, As most federal contractors are aware, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) is the agency responsible for ensuring that contractors and subcontractors doing business with the U.S. government comply with affirmative action and non-discrimination obligations under federal laws, executive orders, and regulations. In September 2016, the Government Accounting Office (“GAO”) issued a report recommending that OFCCP review its compliance assistance efforts to identify opportunities for enhancing contractors’ understanding of their obligations. To provide the opportunity for contractors to offer their perspectives while implementing the GAO’s recommendation, in 2017 the OFCCP conducted three “Compliance Assistance Town Halls,” followed by three “stakeholder meetings” in Washington DC, in January of this year. Last month, the agency issued its resulting “Town Hall Action Plan,” which identified three over-arching areas of focus – training, communication, and trust – as well as three responsive initiatives: Review and enhance contractor compliance assistance materials Assess and improve the quality of contractor and compliance officer training and education Increase transparency and communication with agency stakeholders. Of most interest (at least to this author), is the “transparency and communication” initiative, which the OFCCP expects to include a “Bill of Rights” styled, What Can Contractors Can Expect, document that will “outline certain OFCCP principles that contractors can expect to exist during an engagement with OFCCP.” They identified these principles as including, but not limited to, “such things as timeliness, accuracy, communication, confidentiality, and professionalism.” Perhaps more important than the aspirational bromides, however, is the effort to “achieve consistency across regional and district offices” through the use of a Predetermination Notice (PDN) in those instances where the agency believes it finds evidence of potential discrimination. The use of PDNs prior to the issuance of a Notice of Violations (NOV) is intended to encourage communication between contractor and OFCCP and to allow the opportunity to respond with supplemental information. Also, per the Action Plan, “regional discretion is no longer permitted and the national office will review all PDNs to ensure appropriate consistency and uniformity.” Time will – of course – tell; but, for those of us interacting regularly with the agency, an effort to achieve “consistency and uniformity” as to the investigative approach across the nation’s various regions and districts would be a welcome development. Similarly, promised updates to long outdated Technical Assistance Guides should help contractors who might be relatively unfamiliar with the OFCCP and its processes to stay clear of compliance challenges.   About the Author: David Warner
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David Warner is a seasoned legal counselor with extensive experience in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David leads Centre’s audit, investigation, and litigation practices.   The post Communication, Consistency and … the OFCCP? appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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