On April 11, 2012, the Office of Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) released an announcement informing the federal contracting community of recent updates to policies prohibiting retaliation by the agency against contractors who seek information, guidance and/or assistance from it.

As OFCCP confirms, the agency has a long-standing policy that requests by federal contractors for information and compliance or technical assistance will not trigger a compliance evaluation.  The policy in its current form can be viewed at http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/non-retaliation.htm

The contracting community has long been assured by OFCCP that it uses the “neutral selection criteria” of its Federal Contracting Scheduling System (FCSS) so that contractors are not “targeted” for audit.  OFCCP encourages contractors to interact with and seek guidance from the agency concerning compliance issues.  Their updated policies simply confirm that doing so will not put the contractor “on the radar” for an audit.

Despite these assurances, it is worth noting that OFCCP’s non-retaliation policy specifies that the act of requesting information or assistance will not, in and of itself, trigger an audit.  However, the policy is silent on whether or not OFCCP can initiate an investigation based on information learned through such interactions.

OFCCP also reminds federal contractors that, in accordance with the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA), small businesses, as defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA), may file comments and complaints about federal agency enforcement actions with the Office of the National Ombudsman.  Contractors who do so should likewise not fear retaliation from OFCCP.  Specific information, including contact information for the Ombudsman, can be found at http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/sbrefa.htm.