Government urged to stop meddling in hiring practices

Proposal makes contractors use employees from losing contractors

A proposed federal regulation would give the government too much say in deciding who companies can hire, an industry group said May 18.

The regulation would require federal service contractors replacing a previous contractor for similar or identical work to offer jobs to some of the previous contractor’s employees, according to the rule proposed in March by the Labor Department.


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“We believe that the proposed rule unnecessarily denies successor government contractors the right to select their own workforce while still holding them accountable for the quality of their contract performance,” the Professional Services Council wrote May 18, in response to the proposed Labor regulation.

The council, which represents more than 300 companies of all sizes, also said the government would dictate private employment obligations based solely on whether an incumbent employee is qualified for a position. The threshold for that decision would be met merely because the person worked for the prior contractor, the council wrote.

As the regulation’s comment period ended May 18, many of those who responded found numerous problems in the proposed rule’s language.

Among the comments, a federal contracting officer’s technical representative from the Homeland Security Department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the rule’s intent is to ensure employee continuity, but the real issue is whether the government should prevent disruptions or get the best value from contracts.

“If we’re replacing the contractor because the employees are idiots, please don’t force the new contractor to rehire them and perpetuate the dysfunction,” wrote the DHS employee, who deals regularly with contractors.

In another comment, the HR Policy Association wrote that an incoming companies’ hiring cycle time would suffer delays by giving current employees at least 10 days to refuse a job in the new company's workforce. The organization also was concerned about circumstances when the previous contractor had more employees than its successor plans to have on the project.

The incoming company might have fewer positions than employees who might be laid off because of the changeover. The association questioned whether the successor would have to find jobs somewhere for the leftover employees.

Small Business Administration’s Advocacy Office wrote that small-business owners agree that keeping qualified workers can be in the successor company’s best interest.

However, “the regulation creates unrealistic timelines and a lack of information regarding the potential workforce,” the office wrote in its comments. It asked the Labor Department to take an alternative approach.

The proposed rule would implement President Barack Obama’s Executive Order on Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers Under Service Contracts, which was issued Jan. 30, 2009.

The order and regulations are meant to address situations in which a federal service contract ends and work is taken over by another contractor. The executive order states that the federal government’s interests are better served when the successor contractor hires the predecessor’s employees, in order to reduce disruptions to services. Such a pattern generally is followed, but in some cases contractors bring in a new workforce.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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