On March 14, 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced the launch of the “Mega Construction Project Program” initiative, which is designed to promote equal opportunity and expand the workforce in construction trades involved with large federally funded projects. The Mega Construction Project Program will focus DOL’s efforts to bring the public and private sectors together on a select group of projects to provide a diverse pool of qualified workers access to jobs in construction trades. Projects eligible for designation under the Mega Construction Project Program include large construction projects valued at $35 Million or more, that receive federal funding, and last more than one year. For federal construction contractors interested in becoming eligible for the Mega Construction Project Program, it is important that you understand the Program’s compliance requirements.
The DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) will be charged with designating projects as “Megaprojects” and, from there, engaging a wide range of stakeholders to participate in Equal Employment Committees—including funding agencies, contractors, trades, unions, and community colleges; Tribal Employment Rights Offices; Women’s Apprenticeship and Non-Traditional Occupation grantees; and federal, state, and local government agencies–that will work to remove barriers to employment for applicants from underrepresented communities. The OFCCP will also provide compliance assistance to contractors and subcontractors on nondiscrimination and affirmative action obligations, but more importantly, it will evaluate their compliance with those obligations. It is this latter point that is central to this blog.
PilieroMazza offers the following key takeaways from the launch of this initiative:
- The “Mega” in Mega Construction Project is a bit misleading. Despite the implication that this designation is reserved for only the largest projects, a $35 Million project is more than typical. Contractors and subcontractors should consider what projects may be afforded the designation and be cognizant of the OFCCP’s increasing attention on compliance with affirmative action requirements. Make sure you are prepared to meet your participation goals by taking affirmative steps.
- If you find that you have a project eligible for a designation under this initiative, it comes with DOL oversight. The DOL will provide compliance assistance–free of charge–to contractors and subcontractors in recruitment, hiring, and employment practices with a focus on underrepresented groups in the construction industry. However, DOL compliance review of a contractor’s anti-discrimination and equal opportunity practices could result in costly fines per violation or criminal prosecution in the most extreme instances. Any company looking to pursue this designation should keep in mind the associated oversight and how that could impact your business.
The announcement of this initiative is unsurprising given the Biden Administration’s commitment to both infrastructure and diversity. Just last month, the Department of Commerce announced another plan to help expand opportunities for women in the semiconductor manufacturing and construction workforces by offering better childcare options. The nexus between infrastructure industries and diversity will likely continue throughout the Biden Administration.
If you have questions about the Biden Administration’s Mega Construction Project Program or any other construction or employment law matters, please contact Jessica duHoffmann, Sara Strosser, or Annie Hudgins, the authors of this blog, or another member of PilieroMazza’s Construction or Labor & Employment practice groups.