HR News & Trends, Legal Issues

Labor Department Clarifies Compliance Rules For Internet Hiring

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If your employer does business with the federal government, you already know — or should know — the rules about Internet hiring.

You know the four criteria for defining an Internet applicant are:

  • An expression of interest (as in sending in an application);
  • Meets the basic qualifications (education, years of experience, geography, etc.);
  • You “considered” the individual for a job;
  • The person never withdraws from consideration.

How the government interprets the rules

And you know about the record keeping requirements.

Now comes clarifications of these rules from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs that won’t make life any easier, but which do, at least, make it clearer what records to keep and who is responsible for keeping them.

These aren’t new rules; just explanations of how the OFCCP interprets the rules, and how it will apply them to you, should you be audited. These audits, at least as Berkshire Associates sees it, have undergone “an ideological shift from compliance assistance to compliance enforcement.”

In OFCCP Audit Trends: Specificity and Inconsistency, the authors write, “OFCCP is conducting less audits overall, but the percentage of audits closing with conciliation agreements has tripled since 2008.”

With HR departments nationwide preparing for the annual EEO-1 filing, which, if sloppily done, can trigger an OFCCP audit, the clarifications come at a particularly good time.

Employers now responsible for record keeping

To cut to the chase, the clarifications make very clear that employers are responsible for all record keeping. It doesn’t matter if an RPO or an employment agency does the searching and vetting for you. The government says:

The contractor’s record keeping obligations are the same whether it screens job seekers itself or whether it contracts with an employment agency to screen job seekers on its behalf with the employer’s selection procedures.”

You can have the agency keep the records for you, but, warns the OFCCP in its newly posted FAQs, “the contractor will be held accountable if the specified records are not maintained.”

These details and a number of other clarifications of existing rules are contained in the OFCCP’s list of frequently asked questions. Conveniently, the clarifications are marked with a “NEW” so you know where to look.

In addition to making more explicit the record keeping rules when recruiting firms are involved, the OFCCP also explains what records need to be kept when external databases are searched.

Key clarifications to the rules

The key clarifications are these:

  • You must maintain a record of all the resumes you search if you search external databases using any kind of software that “reviews job seekers’ qualifications and ranks job seekers based not merely on whether they possess the basic qualifications but on an assessment of the extent to which they possess those qualifications vis-à-vis other candidates.” This is giving “consideration.”
  • In searches where you expect large numbers of candidates to meet the basic qualifications for the job, you can limit the number you have to store by taking a random sample of them, or by setting up search parameters that drill down on the specific characteristics that define an “applicant.”
  • Campus recruiters only need to retain records if they meet with students to discuss a specific job. A general discussion of the company, types of jobs, skills it wants, and so on won’t lead to a records retention requirement, so long as the recruiter “advises all students that job seekers must apply through the contractor’s web site to be considered for particular positions.”

Check the OFCCP’s FAQs to see the other clarifications, which relate to job fairs, niche and diversity databases, and job descriptions. However, as labor attorneys with Fulbright & Jaworski note:

One of the most important points the OFCCP reiterates (is that) a contractor must be able to show that it has maintained required records; the failure to do so may lead to a presumption that the information destroyed or not preserved would have been unfavorable to the contractor…

The contractor cannot rely on an external resume database or recruiting agency to fulfill its record keeping obligations. Moreover, a contractor can be held accountable for any record keeping deficiencies caused by its third-party recruiting agencies.”

John has been writing about recruiting and employment for nearly a decade,and has worked in the field for almost twice as long. He traces his connection to the employment industry back to the beginning of the commercial Internet when he managed some of the earliest news oriented websites. These offered job boards, which became highly popular with users. John worked with agencies and large employers on job postings, resume search, and campaigns, before consulting with media companies on audience development and online advertising sales.