NELP Applauds Obama Administration for Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Rules and Guidance

In response to the Obama administration issuing rules and guidance that implement the 2014 Executive Order for Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces, Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project, issued the following statement.

“We applaud the President and his administration for their role in making sure every company with a federal contract respects the legal rights of its workers. This sensible policy is good for law-abiding businesses, good for workers, and good for taxpayers.

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“As the Government Accountability Office and the Senate’s Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have extensively documented, the government regularly awards contracts to companies with very serious violations of worker protection laws. Even companies with the most egregious violations of workplace laws continue to receive federal contracts.

“But these new rules mean that for those contractors who do not comply with the law and continue to practice workplace discrimination, illegally shortchange workers on wages, or jeopardize worker health by exposing them to safety risks, there will be no more free passes. Why should tax payer dollars reward corporations that cut corners and put our nation’s workers at risk? 

“We are confident that the rules will help ensure the federal government does business only with responsible companies that respect our nation’s worker protection laws. Today ushers in a new era in which all hardworking Americans can finally receive, by law, the fair pay and safe workplaces they deserve.”

Background:

The federal government is currently required by law to contract only with ‘responsible’ companies that have a satisfactory record of performance, integrity and business ethics. These new rules require that violations affecting workers will now be part of the review process. It underscores the fundamental principle that companies that play by the rules should not be undercut by those that don’t.

Under the new rules, potential contractors bidding for large federal contracts will be required to simply report labor law violations at a point during the bidding process. That is all. They will not be disqualified if they have violations; nor will they be put on any kind of list.  Far from ‘blacklisting’, the rules and guidance establish a path for bidders with outstanding violations to come into compliance and be deemed responsible.  In fact, the rules require the government to provide contractors in violation of labor and employment laws with guidance and an opportunity to remediate any violations and enter into labor compliance agreements with the appropriate enforcement agency.

Under the new rules, contractors who do not comply with the law are finally held accountable. Take Tyson Foods, for example. Just last week the Department of Labor issued citations to a Tyson Foods poultry plant in Texas for over $263,000 for 15 serious and 2 repeat violations. That is one of the highest fines levied by OSHA this year.  The six month investigation followed the second disfiguring amputation in the plant. Tyson Foods received more than 160 federal contracts over the last three and a half years, totaling more than$147 million dollars. With these new rules, Tyson’s safety violations will now be reviewed by federal contracting officers for any new contracts.


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