The Chamber of Commerce released a scathing report attacking the government's use of affirmative action in federal contracting, saying it had become far too overzealous and needed to scale back its efforts.
The report, titled "Right Mission, Wrong Tactics," took aim at the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance, the agency charged with ensuring that private companies working on government projects abide with all affirmative action and nondiscrimination requirements. The Chamber argued that the agency no longer works in good faith with contractors to help them comply and instead has transformed into an aggressive prosecutor focused on "alleged numbers-based discrimination."
"The shift to acting like a mini-plaintiff's law firm focused solely on issuing findings of discrimination has been accompanied by a dramatic change in the way the agency interacts with the contractor community. Gone are the days of partnering with the contracting community (ultimately, backed up by enforcement) and cooperative compliance evaluations, during which the agency and the contractor worked together to examine and resolve potential issues," the Chamber said in the study released Friday.
"Whereas cooperation once became the pathway to progress in full diversity and utilization of the contractor workforce, it now seems that the agency views cooperation and conciliation as concepts to be avoided."
The report cited an agency case against Google this year as a "case study in overreaching, overly burdensome tactics." It said the agency's documents requests far exceeded the scope necessary to probe for discrimination and that the cost to Google of complying, put at $1 million, well exceeded the $600,000 in contracts it had obtained. An administrative law judge narrowed the scope of the request in August. The agency has appealed the ruling.
The Chamber was careful to say it did not oppose the agency's fundamental mission and that it supports the principles of diversity and inclusion. It nevertheless called on the agency to return to a "more neutral enforcement agency approach" that works with contractors before pursuing litigation.
A Labor Department spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.