by Patricia A. Schaeffer, Vice President-Regulatory Affairs
A highly successful 25th Annual Industry Liaison Group Conference was held in New York on August 21-24, 2007 at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers in mid-town Manhattan. The conference was sold-out with over 600 registered participants, including exhibitors, who had all flocked to New York from across the U.S. to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this annual meeting of federal contractors and the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
Conference Dedicated to Lois Baumerich
This year’s ILG national conference was particularly memorable because it was dedicated to the memory of Lois Ellen Baumerich. Lois was a founding member of the ILGs, and she was this year’s Conference Chair. Lois died tragically on July 18 just weeks before the conference in connection with the highly publicized pipe explosion that occurred outside her office building in mid-town Manhattan. Lois’s long-time commitment and passion for equal opportunity was recognized at the conference by several memorable tributes, including a musical and photo montage and a proclamation made on behalf of the Borough of Hawthorne, New Jersey, where Lois grew up.
Preparing the Next Generation for EEO/AA Work
The theme of this year’s national conference was “Be a Part of It.” In her opening remarks, Martha Burrage, ILG Conference Chair and the Corporate Director-Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Compliance with Honeywell Corporation, asked those at the conference, who had made EEO and affirmative action their life’s work, to pass down their unique knowledge and wisdom to those who are still learning what it means “to be part of” the EEO/affirmative action community. Burrage also challenged participants to go out of their way and “get out of your comfort zone and find at least one person who is fairly new to EEO/affirmative action work, whether they are in industry or government, and offer to mentor them or to find them a mentor.” Burrage said, “If we want the next generation of EEO and affirmative experts in industry and in government to have the skills, knowledge, and most importantly, “the heart” to do this important work, it is our job to help them.”
History of ILGs
Conference Chair Martha Burrage also explained the long history of Industry Liaison Groups (ILGs) leading up to this 25th anniversary conference. ILGs were formed in the early 1980s to encourage open communication between private industry and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). They have evolved over the years to include partnerships with other government agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Ellen Shong-Berman, former OFCCP Director, and Cari Dominguez, former EEOC Chair, were recognized at the conference for their efforts in launching and supporting the growth of ILGs over the years.
Remarks By Charles E. James, Sr., OFCCP Director
James commented on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear saying that nothing in the decision would permit contractors to refuse to provide compensation data to the OFCCP. He also noted that the House had already passed legislation that would overrule the Ledbetter decision and a comparable bill is now pending before the Senate. James stated the administration has indicated that if the Senate passed the bill, President Bush would veto it.
James also discussed the interim guidance posted on its Web site earlier this month stating that federal contractors may use the newly-expanded race and job categories incorporated in the 2007 EEO-1 reporting form in their affirmative action plans, even though OFCCP has not issued recordkeeping regulations on the new categories.
James also mentioned the OFCCP’s recently released rule under the 2002 Jobs for Veterans Act.
Remarks by Naomi Earp, EEOC Chair
In her remarks at the conference, Chair Earp mentioned several issues for employers to watch. These issues included:
- Diversity: Understanding the difficult balance among diversity, equal employment opportunity, affirmative action, and inclusion;
- Affinity Groups: While praising racial or ethnic affinity groups for their past efforts, Chair Earp indicated they may have outlived their usefulness. She also referenced the book “Bowling Alone” by Robert Putnam in her remarks.
- Retaliation: Noting the rise in retaliation charges, Chair Earp said managers should not “take it personally” when employees file a discrimination charge against them.
- Harassment: Employers need to be aware of harassment in all its forms.
- Disabilities: Chair Earp noted the need for employers to be sensitive to age-related disabilities, particularly as the worker population ages. She also noted the proposed ADA Restoration Act, recently introduced in Congress, that would overturn previous Supreme Court decisions interpreting the Americans With Disabilities Act. She believes that if the bill is enacted, it would mean substantial increases in both EEOC’s workload and employers risk of liability.
Workshops on Compensation and Testing
There were several workshops during the four-day conference, particularly on compensation and testing. Check this blog for future postings on the compensation and testing presentations, including highlights of the panel presentation of compensation experts (David Cohen-DCI Consulting Group, Jon Geier Esq. at Paul Hastings, Alissa Horvitz Esq. at Littler Mendelson, and Bill Doyle Esq. at Morgan Lewis). The panel was moderated by The Center for Corporate Equality.
Don’t Miss the 2008 National ILG Conference
The 2008 National ILG Conference will be held in Anaheim, California on July 29-August 1, 2008 at the Hyatt Regency Orange County. The theme for the 2008 ILG Conference is “Inclusion, Compliance, Convergence.”