Employment attorneys say corporate America is having a panic attack over a new federal rule that requires federal contractors to keep better track of who they hire from the Internet.
By Tresa Baldas|December 02, 2005 at 12:00 AM|The original version of this story was published on National Law Journal
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Employment attorneys say corporate America is having a panic attack over a new federal rule that requires federal contractors to keep better track of who they hire from the Internet. On Feb. 6, all federal contractors will be required to have new record-keeping protocols in place that will let the government know, among other things, exactly what Internet resumes they looked at, whom they hired-and didn’t-and the race and gender of qualified applicants. For the first time, corporations will have clear guidelines in place dictating which Internet applicants they have to keep records of. The goal is to make sure companies are not discriminating against minorities and women who apply for jobs on the Internet. Employment attorneys argue that the new rule creates a record-keeping nightmare for companies, which will have to sift through thousands of resumes to determine which they need to keep records of, as well as create a good statistical basis to prove they are not discriminating. But more than that, they argue, the new rule will trigger more hiring discrimination lawsuits as plaintiffs’ lawyers and the government will now have a paper trail-in this case, newly enhanced, hard statistical data-to prove discrimination. “The government is getting the federal contractor community ready, through this regulation, for large-scale class action prosecutions,” said employment attorney John Fox, who last week held a seminar in Northern California for roughly 125 companies on how to prepare for the new regulations. “Before this regulation, what an employer would typically have is a filing cabinet or computer file of lots of people expressing interest in a job. Now it’s all going to be sorted and tidied up-at great expense to the company-and ready for harvest by the plaintiffs’ lawyers or the [government].” Victoria Lipnic, an assistant secretary of labor for employment standards who oversees the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), maintains that the regulations were long overdue, particularly given the explosion in Internet recruiting in recent years. For example, Monster.com, the nation’s biggest online resume service, now has 52 million resumes in its database, compared with 7 million resumes five years ago. With all these resumes floating in cyberspace, and given the popularity of online recruiting and hiring by federal contractors, Lipnic said that there’s been a growing concern on the part of the U.S. Department of Labor that contractors are not keeping accurate records of all the Internet applicants whose resumes get looked at. For example, she said, past audits by the OFCCP have shown that some companies kept records only on the Internet applicants that they actually interviewed, and have weeded out numerous other resumes that were looked at. She also noted that many companies have readily admitted over the years that they’re simply confused about whose records they had to save-just the applicants they interviewed, or every person that expressed interest in a job over the Internet. “The reality was that no one really knew what the rules were because it was always going to be completely impractical and overly broad to suggest that 7 million people on Monster.com are people that an employer would have to keep records on,” Lipnic said. “Employers were prompting the agency and asking for guidance.” Well, they got it, and now the confusion is over, Lipnic said. Under the new guidelines, she added, federal contractors now know exactly which Internet applicant’s data they have to save. Under the new definition of an Internet applicant, an individual must meet the following four criteria:
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