Government Contracts Carry Hidden Risks and Responsibilities

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In this difficult economy, funding sources can be scarce. The financial climate makes government contracts appear quite lucrative. Every industry should seriously consider the ramifications of their actions on other areas of the business when entering into government contracts. We frequently see situations where the sales force of an organization enters into a contract without coordination with the sections of the business responsible for compliance with the multiple reporting procedures, that often go along with government contracts. In fact, there have been a number of occasions where a company's contracting agents had no idea that the work being secured for the company would result in significant reporting requirements. Two relatively new developments should give companies pause when considering government contracting.

Executive Order 11246 requires that all government contractors undertake affirmative action in the hiring of traditionally disenfranchised groups where the contractor or subcontractor has a government contract of $10,000 or more. Contractors who have contracts of $50,000 or more must prepare, maintain and comply with a written affirmative action program. Compliance with affirmative action plans is onerous enough, but the bigger issue is that these plans may be classified as admissible evidence to prove reverse discrimination. See Stimeling v. Board of Education Peoria Public School Dist. To be sure this issue has been visited in the past by appellate courts, with recent case law successes in the reverse discrimination field. See Christianson v. Equitable Life Assurance Society, 767 F.2d 340, (7th Cir. 1985). At least one court has recently found that a former employee of the Peoria School District in Illinois could use the existence of the District's affirmative action plan as evidence of discriminatory intent, so long as other evidence of intent was also present. This case is evidence of the fact that Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs' ("OFCCP") mandates for affirmative action plans can create hidden dangers to a company. These factors should be considered prior to entering into any government contract.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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