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Law Firms: Are You Ready for OFCCP to Come Knocking?

“Glaring,” “concerning,” “troubling,” “problematic,” and “systemic” were some of the words used by OFCCP Director Craig Leen to describe the underrepresentation of women, minorities, and individuals with disabilities at large law firms at an April 10, 2019 town hall meeting in New York City.  Director Leen announced that representation and pay equity issues at law firms and other professional services providers will be an area of focus for OFCCP as early as next fiscal year. 

Director Leen indicated that OFCCP will focus on investigating and redressing disparities in the promotion of law firm associates to partner.  OFCCP is also expected to examine whether law firm billable hours policies act as an impediment to the advancement of female lawyers and the ability of employees of all genders to take family leave.  OFCCP also plans to issue guidance regarding its ability to police practices involving attorneys who are equity partners. 

OFCCP’s 2019 listing of contractors selected for audit included five AmLaw 100 law firms for compliance audits.  Law firms that are not government contractors may also unexpectedly fall within OFCCP’s jurisdiction if they provide services to government contractor clients that are deemed “necessary” to the performance of a federal government contract.

Director Leen’s announcement comes against the backdrop of several high-profile lawsuits filed by female attorneys, both partners and associates, against some of the nation’s largest firms.  These developments show that pay equity and gender discrimination at law firms are in the crosshairs of both private litigants and government agencies.  Rather than wait to be the target of a government investigation or lawsuit, law firms should retain outside counsel and undertake comprehensive compliance audits, including reviewing pay equity and promotion rates reviews. 

© Polsinelli PC, Polsinelli LLP in California


About this Author

Conne Bertram Government Contract Lawyer Polsinelli Law Firm

Connie focuses her practice on whistleblower, trade secrets, government contractors and employee mobility counseling and litigation. She frequently conducts confidential internal investigations involving executive-level employees, including alleged fraud, theft or misuse of company data, trade secrets, sexual harassment and code of conduct violations. She routinely counsels, investigates and litigates restrictive covenant and trade secrets disputes between employers and former employees.

Connie has defended complex whistleblower, trade secrets and restrictive...

Jack Blum Polsinelli Employment Attorney

Jack Blum is an associate in the firm’s Employment Disputes, Litigation, and Arbitration practice, where he represents employers in connection with a wide range of employment law issues. Jack has extensive experience in defending employers against claims by their employees in federal and state courts, as well as before government agencies like the EEOC, Department of Labor, and state human rights commissions. Jack aggressively defends his client’s personnel practices and decisions while not losing sight of their underlying business goals and objectives. Jack represents clients in all aspects of complex employment litigation and has advised and defended employer clients regarding a wide variety of employee claims, including:

• Employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation
• Wage and hour
• Employment contract disputes
• Independent contractor/employee misclassification audits 
• Tort claims arising out of the employment relationship

Jack also has extensive experience representing parties in litigation arising from employee mobility, including claims involving non-competition, non-solicitation, and confidentiality agreements as well as the misappropriation of trade secrets. Significantly, Jack has experience in both prosecuting and defending these claims and is, therefore, able to offer clients a well-rounded assessment of their options and courses of action. Jack also has experience redressing employee data breaches under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Jack also has a background in employment counseling, where he has worked closely with in-house counsel, human resources personnel, and business executives to craft personnel policies that meet the client’s business requirements while complying with applicable laws. Jack has particular experience in assisting clients with issues relating to employee/independent contractor classifications, and regularly advises clients regarding the defensibility of classifications, drafts independent contractor agreements to provide the strongest possible arguments in support of the classification, and defends misclassification claims asserted by employees and government agencies. Jack also walks clients through sensitive personnel actions to reduce the potential for litigation or at least best position the client in the event that litigation is inevitable. Jack draws heavily upon this counseling experience in representing clients in litigation.

During law school, Jack served as a legal intern in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of the Inspector General where he contributed to several high-profile internal investigations, and also interned with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office.