OFCCP Files Discrimination Complaint Targeting Tech Hiring Practices


Earlier this year, we predicted that the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance (“OFCCP”) would ramp up investigations directed at rooting out alleged discrimination by information technology companies.  Many tech companies have indeed been the focus of increasingly intense and acrimonious investigations in 2016.

OFCCP took its enforcement efforts to the next level this week by filing a formal administrative complaint for violations of Executive Order 11246 (which prohibits discrimination by federal contractors).  The complaint alleges that Palantir Technologies – a private software company headquartered in Palo Alto and recently valued at $20 billion – discriminated against Asian applicants for three positions (QA Engineer, Software Engineer, and QA Engineer Intern).  Specifically, the OFCCP alleges that the company hired largely based on an employee referral system that resulted in statistically significant underrepresentation of Asian hires, given that the vast majority of applicants for these jobs were Asian.  The complaint seeks to debar the company from future federal contracts and require “complete relief” for Asian applicants for these roles, including lost compensation, hiring, and retroactive seniority.


California Legislators Aim to Make Prior Salaries a Thing of the Past


A few months ago, the California State Assembly introduced AB 1676, a bill that not only would have prohibited employers from asking job applicants about their compensation history, but also would have required employers to provide pay scale information upon reasonable request. A nearly identical bill passed through the Assembly and Senate before it was vetoed by the Governor toward the end of last year. In his veto statement, the Governor expressed concern that such a measure “broadly prohibits employers from obtaining relevant information with little evidence that [it] would assure more equitable wages.”

As we previously reported, the Fair Pay Act (the “FPA,” Labor Code § 1197.5) requires “equal pay for substantially similar work” based on the employee’s skill, effort and responsibility, and similar working conditions. To the extent a disparity exists between employees of the opposite sex, it must be reasonably based on one or more the factors enumerated within the statute.

Perhaps hoping to avoid repeating history, proponents of AB 1676 have taken a new approach. In place of the provision prohibiting inquiries about prior salary history is new language that amends the FPA to state that “[p]rior salary shall not, by itself, justify any disparity in compensation.”


California DLSE Posts FAQs on New Fair Pay Law but Leaves Tough Questions Unanswered


Three months after the California Fair Pay Act took effect on January 1, 2016, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) has issued answers to FAQs about the new law, which by all counts is the most employee-friendly equal pay law in the nation.  But for California employers who anxiously have been awaiting official guidance on the Act’s many new terms and standards, the FAQs provide little satisfaction.  Rather, they focus more on informing employees on how to bring a claim.  Nor has the DLSE otherwise spoken publicly about how it plans to enforce the new law; instead, the agency appears to be taking its time and exercising caution as it potentially sets the stage for the rest of the nation.


Game-Changing Overtime Regulations Advance to OMB Ahead of Schedule, Final Rule Could Arrive as Early as April 2016


The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) sent its much anticipated final overtime regulations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review on March 14, 2016.  Technically, this move came slightly ahead of schedule.  OMB now has 90 days to review, which would put its “due date” in mid-June – ahead of the July regulatory agenda publication date we previously reported.  However, as these overtime regulations are a top-line priority subject to intense political scrutiny, there is reason to believe OMB may not complete its review within the 90-day window. 


Latest California Equal Pay Legislation Targets Race and Ethnicity


As California employers adjust to recent amendments to the state’s Equal Pay Act, additional changes are looming.  As we reported here, last year, California adopted the Fair Pay Act, which provides new pay equity provisions related to employees of the opposite sex.  Those amendments took effect on January 1, 2016.  Now, California lawmakers are setting their sights on pay disparities based on race and ethnicity.  On February 16, 2016, California Senator Isadore Hall III (D-South Bay) introduced Senate Bill 1063, known as the Wage Equality Act of 2016 (“SB 1063”), which seeks to expand pay equity requirements beyond sex to include race and ethnicity.


Financial Services and Technology Companies Beware: The U.S. Office of Federal Contract Compliance Has A Target on Your Back


The President released his 2017 budget this week. Budgets are aspirational documents that Congress rarely implements in full. The current acrimony between Congress and the Administration ensures that the President’s 2017 budget will likely remain aspirational. However, Presidential budgets and their accompanying justifications can shed light on an agency’s priorities.


At Long Last, OFCCP Announces OMB Approval of a New Scheduling Letter and Itemized Listing


More than three years after the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) first announced its intent to issue a new Scheduling Letter and Itemized Listing, the Agency finally has obtained approval to do so from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  The OFCCP’s Scheduling Letter provides a contractor with notice of its selection for a compliance evaluation (audit), and the Itemized Listing constitutes OFCCP’s standard initial request for submission of the contractor’s Affirmative Action Plan and supporting personnel activity and compensation data.  OFCCP announced the OMB approval in a September 30, 2014 Notice, and published the final versions of the Scheduling Letter and Itemized Listing on October 1, 2014.


The New York Court of Appeals Latest Word on Bonus Compensation Disputes

The case of Ryan v. Kellogg Partners Institutional Services, presents a scenario familiar to many employers – a former employee claims that he is entitled to bonus compensation based upon oral assurances he was given by senior management, while his employer responds that the employee has no right to any bonus because bonuses are discretionary. Despite upholding the employee’s claim for a bonus, the New York Court of Appeals in Ryan actually reaffirmed the well-established New York principle that employees have no legal right to unvested, discretionary bonuses. Significantly, the Court of Appeals confirmed that properly drafted discretionary bonus policies could vitiate a bonus claim, but that the at-will statements in the employment application and handbook that Kellogg was relying upon simply did not meet the standard. The Ryan Court also restated its previous holding in Truelove v. Northeast Capital & Advisory, explaining that discretionary bonuses linked to an employer’s financial success do not constitute “wages” under the New York Labor Law, and that a bonus does not vest and become earned until the conditions of the employer’s bonus plan are met, which may include the requirement that the employee be employed by the employer at the time the bonus is paid.