Labor Rights

Trump Budget Proposal Aims to Reduce Civil Rights Enforcement Throughout Federal Agencies

According to the White House’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year, the Trump administration is set to disband the Labor Department division that has been tasked with policing discrimination among federal contractors for nearly forty years. Such budget cuts are not limited to the Labor Department, but are also seen in the budgets of a wide array of agencies as part of efforts to limit federal government programs that promote and protect civil rights.

The Congressional Budget Justification for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) shows a 16.4% budget cut and the elimination of 130 full time employees, with the overall goal being the eventual folding of the other 470 employees of OFCCP into the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by the end of the 2018 fiscal year. Despite the introduction of OFCCP and resulting increased costs, the budget for EEOC would remain flat.

The proposed idea that both offices complete similar work is an unfortunate falsehood. While the EEOC is tasked with investigating the complaints it receives, the systematic approach taken by OFCCP audits contracts to ensure their current, past, and potential employees are given equal opportunity.

While the compliance office has found that, since 2004, 98% of federal contractors comply with the law, it does not erase the millions of dollars in settlements awarded to Americans who without systematic audits from OFCCP may not have known such discriminatory practices were taking place by their employers. Recent victories include a $1.8 million settlement with G&K Services, Inc. after finding discriminatory hiring practices, 171 job positions within Fastenal Company as a result of its discrimination against 171 applicants who sought positions within their warehouse, and an $83,000 settlement to female employees of Home Depot who faced systematic hiring and placement discrimination.

The Washington Post reported on the growth of the compliance office under the Obama administration, highlighting that, “the compliance office often conducted full-scale audits of companies, examining their practices in multiple locations, rather than carrying out shorter, more limited reviews as previous administrations had done.”  The effort put forth by the Obama administration showed a 133% increase in awards given to American workers facing with discriminatory hiring and pay practices, demonstrating a need for a fully staffed and funded office working specifically to audit and monitor.

The Labor Department is not the only agency facing budget cuts that will impact their ability to protect marginalized communities. The budget proposals for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Education Departments have both shown drastic staffing cuts to their respective civil rights offices. Within the Education Department, budget documents acknowledge the realities of such cuts, “to address steady increases in the number of complaints received and decreased staffing levels, OCR must make difficult choices, including cutting back on initiating proactive investigations.” These federal agencies will be forced to make difficult decisions should Trump’s proposed budget be brought to fruition.

Media Outlets: Washington Post 5/29/2017; PR Newswire 01/05/2009; Reveal News 05/26/2017; United States Department of Labor 2015; U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 05/2017; Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs 2017; Department of Education Office for Civil Rights 2017

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