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What Federal Contractors Need to Know About the VETS-4212 Report

If your organization is a federal contractor or subcontractor, you’re probably breathing a calming, collective exhale thanks to a Final Rule issued by the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) which revised the VEVRAA (Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act) reporting regulations, and that goes into effect later this year. Finally…less paperwork rather than more thanks to this compliance reporting update! The new Federal Contractor Veterans’ Employment Report VETS-4212 replaces the VETS-100A Report and brings relief to affected employers as it requires less rigorous data collection than its predecessor.

I recently had the opportunity to speak about the Final Rule and the resulting new VETS-4212 form with Tony Pickell, Founder of Precision Planning — an Affirmative Action, EEO and Diversity consulting firm.

When does the new reporting go into effect?

Tony: “The updated regulations were published in 2014, but they are effective for the 2015 filing period which opens on August 1, 2015. All covered federal contractors and subcontractors must file VETS-4212 by September 30, 2015.”

Jessica: “So, who is a covered federal contractor or subcontractor when it comes to filing a VETS-4212?”

Tony: “A covered contractor will hold a contractor or subcontract in the amount of $100,000 or more.”

Jessica: “Okay, so the deadline is coming up and it’s confined to a specific time of year for all employers that are affected.”

Tony: “Yes, it is similar to filing the EEO-1 Report in that it is an annual report and must be filed by September 30th of each year.”

Why is the VETS-4212 Report replacing VETS-100 and VETS-100A?

Tony: “The old VETS-100 Report is gone. It only applied to employers that had contracts entered into and not modified since December 1, 2003. It became obsolete as contract prices changed and new contracts were issued. VETS-100A was the report that replaced VETS-100 for contracts entered into after December 1, 2003, and the VETS-100A report has now been renamed the VETS-4212. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service agency (VETS), which administers the reporting requirement, modified the report requirements for several reasons. First, VETS could not get an accurate count of total veterans because a veteran employee in a Company’s workforce could fall into more than one protected veteran category (i.e. disabled veteran and recently separated veteran) and the VETS-100A report didn’t require a total veteran number. Second, the new VETS-4212 format increases confidentiality for disabled veterans. Third, because the OFCCP changed the name of the former Other Protected Veteran category to Active Duty Wartime or Campaign Badge Veteran in 2014, VETS mirrored this change to make the veteran categories consistent with OFCCP regulations. As a result, the VETS-4212 was created.”

Jessica: “I’m glad they gave it a different name rather than another variation on “100”…less confusing for all. Why is it called the “4212”?

Tony: “It is named after the U.S. Code section for the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) 38 U.S. Code 4212.”

At what point in the hiring process is data collected for the VETS-4212 Report?

Tony: “At the post-offer stage via a voluntary self-disclosure form.”

How is the VETS-4212 Report different than VETS-100A?

Tony: “As I mentioned, the ‘Other Protected Veteran’ category has been updated to Active Duty Wartime or Campaign Badge Veteran to be consistent with terminology the OFCCP now uses for veteran categories. In the past, federal contractors and subcontractors have had to report employee and new hire veteran numbers by the four individual protected veteran categories. However, the recent changes made will require employers to only report veteran employees and new hires simply as ‘protected veterans’ in aggregate numbers.”

Jessica: “That’s great news…that means less of a data collection burden for employers.”

Tony: “Yes, but it’s optional for them to continue to collect veteran data at the individual category level, if they prefer. In response to this form change by the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, the OFCCP issued an FAQ on post-offer veteran self-identification.  This FAQ clarifies that contractors may either continue to collect the individual protected veteran group information at the post-offer stage from hired employees (as has been required for years), or contractors may instead choose to modify post-offer forms to simply define the four protected veteran groups and then ask hired employees to respond with (a) I am a protected veteran; (b) I am not a protected veteran; or (c) I choose not to provide this information.  So, contractors now have a choice on how they would like to proceed in the future on post-offer veteran self-identification.”

Jessica: “That’s interesting, and makes me wonder about any reasons an employer may choose to stick with the traditional individual category detail for collection.”

What are some pros/cons of choosing to collect at either the aggregate or individual veteran category level?

Tony: “There are different considerations. The simplified data collection process can reduce record keeping burdens for employers and make VETS-4212 filing easier.

At the same time, now that the process will be more simplified, I think it is possible employers may get a higher veteran response rate because the veterans may be less likely to read the actual definitions (not being forced to pick a specific category in the future). There are some veterans who do not meet the definition of a ‘protected’ veteran. As a result, veterans who were confused about whether they fell into the protected categories before, may now just check the protected veteran box (even if they aren’t really a protected veteran). Employers could realize a higher ‘veteran’ hiring rate, consequently.”

Jessica: “I can see how that might be a pro for employers. What about any cons of moving to the new collection approach?”

Tony: “If an employer does choose to simplify the post-offer self-disclosure form, it will obviously require the existing form to be replaced. That could mean just a paper form; or, it may mean changes to an HRIS or standard operating procedures and require additional training. Some organizations may not have the energy or staff bandwidth to go back to IT and other groups within the organization to make this change after adapting all the VEVRAA-related changes from last year.”

Jessica: “Yes, I can see the form change being a temporary stumbling block for some contractors and subcontractors. Do you think VETS will offer any leniency on the deadline this year?”

Tony: “The VETS Administration has frequently granted extensions on filings in the past. Given that this is the first year, I anticipate that it is possible an extension could be granted beyond the September 30th deadline, but of course there is no guarantee and contractors should be prepared to file a VETS-4212 on or before September 30, 2015.

What other changes do you foresee coming down the pipeline related to veterans?

Tony: “I think there will be additional FAQs to clarify the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act regulation changes that took effect on March 23, 2014, but I wouldn’t expect any regulatory process changes anytime soon given all the change that happened last year. FAQs can tweak the interpretation of the regulations; however, they don’t have the binding force of law. Federal Contractors and the OFCCP alike will continue to digest these changes in the coming years.  During this time, we will learn more about how the agencies are going to audit contractors, and then see what kind of audit pattern emerges…as we only have about six months of audit data so far under the new regulations. A year from now we will see some trends and be able to make more interesting predictions on how the future may go.

 

Thank you to Tony Pickell of Precision Planning for sharing his expertise in this area for our blog. If your organization is looking for a trusted resource to navigate the complex reporting requirements attributable to federal contractors and subcontractors, then please reach out to Tony for assistance.

ExactHire’s HireCentric applicant tracking system is outfitted with the data collection tools your organization needs to collect and report on pre-offer Affirmative Action Plan compliance-related items such as the applicant flow log report.

What is an Applicant Flow Log? – Whiteboard [VIDEO]

If your growing organization is accepting federal contracts or subcontracts for the first time and you are unsure about compliance regulations that may now be applicable to your business, then this Whiteboard Chat is for you. In this video, Jeff Hallam, explains the purpose of an applicant flow log report, and comments on which organizations must prepare one in order to be compliant with Affirmative Action regulations enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

Video Transcript:

Hi today we’re going to talk about what is an applicant flow log. An applicant flow log is a report that’s generated annually, and it’s used by organizations that are required, from an Affirmative Action perspective, to make sure that they are not discriminating against candidates for any illegal reasons. And all of this is subject under the umbrella of Affirmative Action, which applies typically to organizations, either directly through contracts, or indirectly through subcontracts, of certain amounts that are doing business with the federal government. And when you look at what we’re going to talk about today, you’ll notice right away there’s quite an alphabet soup of acronyms that are going to be used when you talk about Affirmative Action.

But we’re trying to simplify this a little bit and understand this isn’t meant to be a full explanation on Affirmative Action, but at least a way to help you make sure that you understand whether your organization might be perhaps subject to this, and if so, what are some key things that you need to be made aware of.

So, some of the players when you talk about an applicant flow log and Affirmative Action…all of this is administered and governed under the auspices of the OFCCP, otherwise known as the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. And this is an offshoot of the Department of Labor, so as you would expect, all of this falls ultimately under the Department of Labor as to whether organizations are being compliant. There are a couple of recent updates that have been passed along with Affirmative Action just as of the last year or so that expanded the pools of applicants through which discrimination has to be tested.

One of those, the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act, or VEVRAA, applies to people who have been in the service, making sure that organizations aren’t discriminating against them. Likewise, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to organizations, or individuals rather, who may have certain types of disabilities. And again, making sure that those folks aren’t being discriminated against. So when you look at an applicant flow log, understanding some of these basics in simplest terms, these items in this box here are what an applicant flow log is designed to track during the course of a year. So they’re very specific requirements that from an Affirmative Action perspective must be met to make sure that, again that discrimination isn’t taking place.

So what an applicant flow log will track per job are these items here…so the name of each candidate, the date that they applied, their race, their gender, veteran status, disability status and then disposition. And there could be a couple of other things here and there that your administrator may request, but these are typically the core things that have to be there for any applicant flow log report. And when you talk about disposition sometimes that can be a little confusing to people. What disposition really looks at is what did we do with a candidate? And there are, again, some key components to that. So when we say what did we do with them, meaning what ultimately did we decide to do from a hiring perspective. Did we hire them? If not, why not? When did we make that determination? And then who was it within the organization who made that determination?

So there have to be very specific things that are tracked along the way so that when it comes time to provide this applicant flow log report for your Affirmative Action purposes, all of these given data elements are there. So, as to tracking these elements, there are a couple of core ways that most organizations may do this. So if you work with job boards, or you accept email resumes, then typically you are going to have to find a mechanism usually in the form of an online document, or something that you’re going to have to email candidates, that allows them to voluntarily provide this information because it does have to be requested of each candidate. They have the option as to whether they want to disclose any of this information, but you have to have a record of the fact that you made it available to them.

Likewise, the other option, where more organizations seem to be headed is, if they are using an applicant tracking tool that will automate much of this, that can simplify things dramatically. Now, as candidates apply or indicate interest in the job, that information is offered to them right up front, it can be escrowed and held separately from the rest of the application, so that when it does come time to produce this applicant flow log information at the end of the year, that information is already there, readily available, and can be reported on at a moment’s notice.

So, again, that is just a very quick update on what an applicant flow log is. If you do have questions about whether your organization is subject to Affirmative Action reporting, or whether you have to worry about an applicant flow log yourself, typically we would suggest that you check with a qualified labor and employment law attorney, so that they can review your particular business practices.

Affirmative Action Compliance and 2014 NILG Conference

About this time last year, we were preparing for our first time attending the NILG Conference in Indianapolis.  Hard to believe another year has passed and the annual conference is upon us again.

For those of you not familiar, NILG (National Industry Liaison Group) is the go-to organization for both employers and practitioners dealing with EEO and Affirmative Action issues across the country.  The group was formed through the OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs) in the early 1980’s and has become a great example of how government/private partnerships can enhance both knowledge and compliance.

In last year’s conference, there were many updates on the pending VEVRAA and Section 503 updates that took effect earlier this year.  These two rulings were updated in the DOL’s (Department of Labor) Federal Register and serve as significant milestones in helping ensure that federal contractors may not discriminate against individuals due to their veteran status or their disability status.

I found the conference to be a great resource for inside updates about what’s happening in this space and how it might affect our clients.  If you’re a federal contractor or organization that is required to follow Affirmative Action guidelines, you may want to consider attending the national conference.  This year’s conference is in Washington, DC and runs from 8/5 – 8/8.  Likewise, NILG has both regional and state chapters you may join.  They are very affordable and will put you in touch with others who can help you navigate this entire landscape.

You may learn more about NILG by visiting their website at www.nationalilg.org.  Likewise, you may check out information about their annual national conferences here.  We will be exhibiting at the conference, so if you happen to attend, please stop by our booth and say hello.

To learn more about ExactHire and how we help organizations stay compliant with Affirmative Action guidelines, please visit our resources section or contact us today.

Image credit: Capital Building – Washington D.C. – Night Shot by fortherock (contact)

How is Your Business Affected by the VEVRAA & Section 503 Updates?

Organizations affected by Affirmative Action mandates have known (or should have known) for years what requirements must be met in order to comply with OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance) regulations. For the most part, those rules/requirements have been fairly static for some time.

However, in the fall of 2013, two significant updates to compliance were added with VEVRAA and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. With those changes, if you are required to comply with Affirmative Action guidelines, that world is changing in a major way. In fact, here are 5 questions you may be asking in order to determine what specific impact these updates may have on your organization.

What is VEVRAA?

This is an acronym for Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act. The primary purpose of this legislation is to encourage organizations doing business with the federal government to employ veterans who fall into the categories of “Disabled Veteran,” “Recently Separated Veteran,” “Active Duty Wartime or Campaign Badge Veteran,” or “Armed Forces Service Medal Veteran.” This is done by establishing hiring benchmarks and outreach goals for a federal contractor to demonstrate documented efforts toward employing these types of veterans.

What is Section 503?

This is a portion of the Rehabilitation Act that was modified to encourage organizations doing business with the federal government to employ individuals with disabilities. Much like VEVRAA referenced above, this is done by establishing utilization goals by different job groups equal to the national percentage of individuals with disabilities in the civilian workforce.

Does it affect my organization?

If you are subject to Affirmative Action as a result of federal contractor (or subcontractor in some cases) status, the answer likely is “yes.” While you’ll want to confirm this with your affirmative action plan consultant or labor/employment attorney, the reality is that you’ll likely need to get up to speed on this very quickly.

What does it mean for my company?

In simplest terms, more record-keeping and tracking for your business. In addition to the standard affirmative action tracking that organizations have done to this point, it will now be critical to ensure that employment applications or pre-offer self-identification forms are updated to reflect these changes and that the appropriate data is gathered. In addition, the responses from job applicants for these additional information pieces will have to be tracked and provided for reporting purposes. Finally, there are additional requirements and suggestions regarding the dissemination of job openings, communicating a policy of outreach for these special classes of applicants, etc.

When does this take effect?

Organizations whose affirmative action plan periods begin on or after 3/24/14 must have these procedures in place as of that date. For organizations whose plans renewed prior to March 24, 2014, they are required to meet these new requirements with their next renewal date.

As you can imagine there is much more to this than the brief information shared here. If you’d like to learn more about these regulations and how you can prepare for them, please download our free resource:

The Revised VEVRAA & Section 503 Regulation Guide

It is a collaboration between Affirmative Action consultancy, Precision Planning, and ExactHire. It reveals more information about how to prepare for these regulations so that your organization is compliant. It is available for free in PDF format.

What Is An Applicant Flow Log Report?

What’s an applicant flow log? Many of our clients are required to comply with Affirmative Action and OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs) regulations. While these regulations are wide-ranging and very comprehensive, they typically apply to organizations that have government contracts (or sometimes subcontracts). At their core, these programs help to ensure that organizations don’t discriminate in their hiring processes. Of course, there’s more to it than this, but I’m not an Affirmative Action consultant.

What You Need To Know

The primary way these regulations are measured and enforced is through analysis of applicant records. In very simple terms, employers must keep very good records to show key things such as:

  • the number of applicants per open position posted
  • whether or not those applicants volunteered their race, gender, and ethnicity
  • if they did volunteer this information, it must be listed per applicant
  • the disposition of each applicant (i.e. how far did they get in the hiring process and why they were exited from the process)

The Challenge of Applicant Flow Log Reports

While the intent of these regulations probably wasn’t to overburden employers, the reality is that they do. As you can imagine, recording applicant flow log information in a spreadsheet for each applicant…for every job–while keeping their race/gender/ethnicity information separately, as required by law–is beyond painful. Then, once this data is collected, it needs to be analyzed and reported to authorities in very specific ways–typically by an Affirmative Action consultant or Labor/Employment attorney. On top of all that, if the employer fails to adequately keep these records, they risk fines and penalties if audited, including the loss of any future government contract. This clearly isn’t an optional task.

Ease the Compliance Reporting Burden

This compliance headache is a major reason why many organizations (even those in the small and mid-sized business space) are turning to applicant tracking software. A good ATS gathers, segregates and allows for automated reporting of the information described above–an applicant flow log report.

However, before working with an applicant tracking system vendor, be sure to ask for proof that they can do this type of tracking and reporting. The best way to do this is to talk with clients who are using this component of the applicant tracking software already. They will be in a great position to help you understand how well the ATS works for these specific purposes.

For more information about ExactHire and our Affirmative Action reporting capabilities, please contact us today.