Affirmative Action Plan: Is Your Organization Required to Have One?

Recent news of the United States Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action ruling sheds light on the importance of having an Affirmative Action Plan which adheres to the legal requirements set forth over 5 decades ago.  In a 5-3 decision, the Court upheld a race-based affirmative action policy of the University of Texas at Austin.  Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian woman, sued the school over what she deemed to be racial discrimination after she was denied admissions to the school in 2008.

The University’s admissions protocol consists of a two-pronged approach: 75% of the student body is filled with public high school students who finish in the top 10% of their graduating class, while the remaining 25% of seats are filled based on a number of factors, one of which is race. This Top Ten Rule is known as a “holistic” approach to admissions decisions.  Their policy is meant to increase black and Hispanic admissions at the University, which historically were lacking.

Based on her academics, Abigail Fisher did not qualify for admissions under the 10% rule, making it necessary for her to compete for the limited number of enrollment slots remaining.  Ultimately, she was not accepted into the University.

What is the Goal of Affirmative Action?

Although Affirmative Action in the area of education, which is aimed at student enrollment, differs from employment-related Affirmative Action, aimed at hiring and employment practices, the intent of both is the same: to ensure certain protected classes receive an equal opportunity for consideration in education and employment and, in the case of employment, an equal chance to advance in the organization.

Who Needs a Written Affirmative Action Plan?

Government contractors and subcontractors with at least 50 employees, and a government contract of $50,000 or more, are required to have a written plan that is updated annually. The applicable laws cover minorities and women,[1] veterans[2] and people with disabilities.[3] Additionally, a financial institution that is a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) must comply with Affirmative Action laws.[4]

Who Enforces Affirmative Action Regulations?

The United States Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) oversees and enforces the obligations of affirmative action and equal opportunity programs required for those organizations doing business with the federal government.  The OFCCP has the power to conduct audits on organizations required to have an Affirmative Action Plan in place, obtain Conciliation Agreements from those in violation of regulatory requirements, and recommend enforcement action(s) to the Solicitor of Labor. Penalties for non-compliance may include monetary penalties, including back wages to applicants negatively impacted, and/or debarment.  Companies who are debarred lose the right to hold federal government contracts in the future.

How First Contact HR Can Keep Your Organization Compliant?

Our Affirmative Action specialists can create a custom Plan for your organization that meets all the necessary legal requirements.  We can update your Plan annually and accomplish all of these goals while offering a competitive price and accessibility to our Affirmative Action Team for any questions or support needs.  Please contact us today to get started!

[1] Executive Order 11246 on Nondiscrimination under Federal Contracts, Subpart B, Sec. 202(1)

[2] Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended.

[3] Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

[4] 41 CFR 60-1.3; 41 CFR 60-250.2; 60-300.2; 60-741.2

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Workplace Violence: Strategies For Surviving An Imminent Threat

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the current best practice in the event of an active threat at work is RUN, HIDE, FIGHT.  When preventative measures fail to thwart a violent situation on the job, the following guidelines could prove critical to getting yourself, and your staff, out alive.

RUN – If you can get out, get out! Assist others along the way, but do so only if it does not put you in further danger.  Leave your stuff behind (unless it is immediately available) and go to your EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN’s evacuation route or designated exit.  Once you are clear from danger, prevent others from walking into the danger, and then call 911.  Your EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN should contain rally points (safe locations) where you and your staff can meet should an incident take place. This allows you to take an inventory of your staff and ensure everyone is accounted for.

HIDE – If you cannot run, then hide.  Find a location where you’re not likely to be found and silence your phone.  If you are able to call 911 during this time, do so.  Even if you cannot speak to the operator, simply calling and leaving the call active will alert authorities to your approximate location.  Stay calm and quiet.  If you are able to lock yourself in an office or other secure area, do so.  Do not open the door for anyone except the authorities.  It is important to stay away from interior windows as well.  During safety drills at schools, police advise students and teachers to stay out of sight of those interior windows which look into classrooms.  The same holds true for workplaces. If a threat sees people through a window, he will see potential victims, and the violence may escalate.  Understanding the difference between cover and concealment is also critical.  Concealment means hiding and staying out of sight.  Cover means placing a barricade between yourself and the danger (like bullets, for example).  Situational awareness is important in understanding what objects may prove useful barriers, and what will do nothing to protect you from injury. And finally, when you are hiding, prepare for the worst – which means – be ready to fight.

FIGHT – If you are confronted with a situation where you may wind up seriously injured or killed, you should fight.  The goal here is to physically harm the threat.  Law enforcement recommends aiming for “soft spots”; groin, face, eyes, etc, and using improvised weapons; chairs, box cutters, letter openers, and anything else that would hurt the person or slow them down.  If you are carrying a gun, exercise caution when deciding whether to use it.  You don’t want the intruder to get his hands on it, you don’t want to inadvertently shoot an innocent bystander, and you don’t want the police to mistake you for a threat when they arrive.  If you are able to harm and incapacitate the intruder, first ensure you’re safe, and then call 911.  Speak clearly and calmly, and provide the location of the incident, and location and description of the intruder.  You may also want to provide information about victims or injuries.

Two considerations in handling the aftermath of workplace violence:

  1. When the first responders arrive, they may very well ignore the injured.  Their first priority is assuring the intruder is neutralized.  Rest assured, EMS and other medical care will arrive and assist those who are hurt.  Try to stay out of the first responders’ way, and if they approach you for information, be prepared to help them; and
  2. Your place of business will be considered a crime scene.  Depending on the severity of the incident, this may last for a day, weeks, or even months.  Keep this in mind when creating your company’s EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN.  You may want to have contingencies in place for alternate work locations.  Instruct your staff to never try to return to the scene to retrieve belongings without asking the authorities first.  They will probably require an escort, or may be barred from entry altogether.

Remember that workplace violence can happen to any company at any time.  According to a study conducted by the FBI[1], between 2000 and 2013, 40 out of 50 states experienced an active shooter incident.  There were 160 active shooter incidents in this country during that same 14 year time frame.  In 16 of those incidents, the violence occurred at more than one location.  An average of 11.4 Active Shooter incidents occur annually (Sandy Hook Elementary is one terrifying example of this).  These incidents are on the rise; the first 6.4 incidents during the FBI’s study happened in the first 7 years, while 16.4 occurred during the last 7 years.The first shot or instance of aggression is almost always directed at the perpetrator’s spouse or other family member, and 60% of violent incidents are over before the police even arrive on the scene.

While these numbers are startling and scary, there are ways to prevent, prepare, and take action if your place of business is a victim of workplace violence.

First Contact HR is a full-service background screening company that provides pre-employment background checks, employee background checks, drug screening, education and employment verifications, and many other services that may assist in keeping your workplace safe.  For more information, please call our office at 267-419-1390, or visit our website at



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Infographic: Workplace Intelligence

Ever wonder how your ‘smarts’ fit into your workplace? The infographic, “What kind of smart are you” by examines how other forms of intelligence, separate from IQ, can help or hinder a team at work.

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Anatomy of a Background Check

Lately, there has been quite a bit of discourse on the topic of background screening in the news. Between the EEOC suing Dollar General and BMW over their alleged discriminatory screening practices, the Philadelphia building collapse in June,and the Snowden/NSA information leaking case, there’s certainly plenty to discuss. But what exactly is a background check?

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Top 10 Background Check Trends for 2013

The rising popularity of background checks has given rise to new trends for vetting new hires and employees by organizations across the U.S.The growth of background checks also permeates other areas such as screening of volunteers, contractors, business partners, board members, housing tenants and even purchasers of guns. Here’s a list of the latest 10 ten trends for 2013 complied by First Contact HR.

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Hiring Concerns in Philadelphia Building Collapse

Center City, Philadelphia was faced with a tragic event Wednesday, June 5 when a building came crumbling down onto an adjacent building on 22nd and Market Streets. A total of six lives were lost and 13 people injured as rescue crews excavated bodies and survivors from the rubble.

A two-story wall of a building being demolished came down around 10:30am EST onto a neighboring Salvation Army thrift store below. The loss of life in this demolition accident is tragic, and now people are asking the questions: why and how did this happen?

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Why You Need To Background Check [Infographic]

Your new potential hire has just left your office following a final interview. You feel great about their attitude and they appear to have the pedigree of a top candidate. They have all the signs for success: a resume full of great experience, stories about converting tough clients, and the charisma/charm and character you’ve only ever read about in hiring books.

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Accuracy in Employee Background Checks is Cited as Priority by NAPBS in 2013

The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) released 5 tips for conducting effective employee background checks in 2013.

The Association’s guidance is targeted to all employers that utilize employment background checks to vet employees for job opportunities. Company roles in human resources, legal compliance, risk management, finance and general management should review the full press release.

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The Dark Side of Employment Background Screening

In this day and age, companies are becoming increasingly concerned with their financial well-being and corporate responsibility. For most of them, this means ensuring employee safety and candor in the work place.

Background screening companies like First Contact HR are here to keep company work environments safe by mitigating risky hires, while also remaining legally compliant. Providing background checks means background screening companies must have a high standard for legal integrity to help their clients make the best hiring decisions.

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Massachusetts CORI Reform Law and its Implications on Employer Background Checks

There has been a surge in legislation across the U.S. with the goal of curtailing employer use of criminal records that bar employment opportunities for ex-offenders. Take for example the new EEOC guidance on the use of arrest and conviction records and the proliferation of “ban-the-box” laws.

With the enactment of the 2010 Massachusetts Criminal Offender Records Information (CORI) Reform bill, employers face a wave of changes in their use and access to criminal records.

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