Preparing Data for Affirmative Action Plan Audits

Federal contractors must take care when collecting workforce information

By Roy Maurer Mar 8, 2016
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Compiling and reporting accurate and complete affirmative action plan (AAP) data could help employers retain lucrative government contracts and secure future contracting work.

Three separate federal laws require certain employers that do business with the federal government to implement and regularly update their affirmative action programs for women, minorities, protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.

During audits, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) will ask to review copies of job postings, proof of targeted recruitment efforts, reasonable accommodation policies, and most importantly, employment data on applicants, hires, promotions and terminations. Affirmative action programs must be updated yearly.

“Simply put, any analyses of a federal contractor’s personnel activities or progress in meeting placement goals is only as good as the initial data that is used to create the analyses,” said Lynn Clements, director of regulatory affairs at HR consulting firm Berkshire Associates, based in Columbia, Md.

Clements, a former acting director at the OFCCP, said the agency’s practice of “following the numbers” in compliance reviews is “an approach which focuses on all statistically significant adverse impact findings, regardless of who the protected group is.”

Employers will need two types of data: snapshot data on employees from a single point in time, generally from just before the plan begins, and employment activity data for the 12 months preceding the start of the AAP, said Kaleigh Ferraro, manager of affirmative action services for CAI, a nonprofit employers’ association with offices in Raleigh and Greensboro, N.C.

For example, for employers with an AAP effective Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2016, the employee snapshot date would generally be Dec. 31, 2015, and the employment activity range would be Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2015, she explained.

Employee Data

Point-in-time data from just before the start of the AAP is used to prepare reports for the forward-looking plan, for example, in meeting placement goals for the upcoming year, Ferraro explained. The data is used to develop affirmative action reports for women, minorities and individuals with disabilities. It will also be used to review compensation to ensure against pay inequity between men and women or minorities and nonminorities.

There are specific types of employees who must be included in the data:

  • All full- and part-time regular employees.
  • Any workers on military leave.
  • Employees on short-term disability for less than one year.
  • Anyone who’s been hired in the past 12 months.

The OFCCP is encouraging that temporary workers on the company’s payroll also be included, Ferraro said.

Worker groups that should not be included in the data:

  • Contingent workers not on the payroll.
  • Workers on long-term disability.
  • Expatriate workers.
  • Any employee who’s been terminated outside of the AAP period.

“Most organizations have some kind of electronic system such as an HRIS [human resource information system] or payroll system that monitors this kind of data,” Ferraro said. She suggested exporting the data into Excel to review it for accuracy and completeness.

For each worker who is counted, the data should include:

  • Employee ID number.
  • Name.
  • Race, gender and disability status.
  • Job title.
  • Department.
  • EEO-1/job group.
  • Wage/salary.
  • Location.
  • Hire date.

“Once you have this data in Excel, you’ll want to look for missing information, duplicate records and any inconsistencies,” Ferraro said. “Does the data make sense? Does a senior VP have a $25,000 salary?”

She recommended setting up Excel filters to perform basic checks, for example, making sure that all employees have an identified race and gender and are assigned to the right EEO-classified job title and group.

“You are allowed to do a visual identification of race and gender for employees who have opted out of voluntarily identifying themselves, for affirmative action purposes,” she said.

Employment Activity Data

Employment activity data covers the 12 months during which a contractor has had an affirmative action plan and includes a list of all hires, rehires, promotions, terminations and applicants.

It’s used to create:

  • Affirmative action reports for women and minorities, showing progress for the prior year’s placement goals, an adverse impact analysis comparing hires to applicants and year-to-year comparisons that track progress.
  • Affirmative action reports for protected veterans showing how the company fared against its hiring benchmark.
  • Data collection reports on the total number of applicants and hires that identify as protected veterans or individuals with disabilities, and the number of jobs opened and filled.

Questions to Answer While Reviewing AAP Data

Contractors should take into account the following considerations to improve data management:

When preparing an annual AAP, do you gather applicant data for all individuals who applied during the one-year period, or only those individuals who applied for positions for which there was a hire during the one-year period? “Since you are analyzing selection activity, a good practice is to reverse-engineer your applicant data, meaning you first identify all relevant selection decisions and then develop the applicant pools for each decision,” Clements said.

In other words, work back from relevant hires to the relevant applicant pools. The least helpful solution—and likely to cause problems—is using a data dump for applicant data, she added.

Contractors should review their applicant tracking processes annually to be sure they are maintaining data by requisition when possible and with detailed disposition information, Clements said. “This includes information regarding the stage of the hiring process where the candidate was rejected, and the reason the candidate was rejected.”

For consistency, employers will need to decide to include data from external positions only or both external and internal positions when reporting on total job openings, Ferraro said.

Other data fields prone to oversights and recommended for careful review:

  • Are all new hires from the past 12 months accounted for? If these positions are not in the terminations log, where are they?
  • Are new hires in the positions they were hired for? If not, does a promotion or transfer explain any changes?
  • Are all new hires also in the applicants log?
  • Do positions referenced in the promotions log match with data in the employee file?
  • Does the terminations log reconcile with the current employee file?
  • Is everyone who is listed as hired from your applicants log also listed in your hires log?
  • Are there any duplicates of the same applicants applying for the same position?
  • Are applicants for still-open positions included? They shouldn’t be.
  • Are any applicants included without an identified race or gender? They should be pulled out.

Finally, be sure to review EEO-1 job categories, AAP plan coding and job group structure records, Clements said. “Because these data elements are often revised infrequently, over time these records do not reflect the current reality of your workplace.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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