Let’s suppose you’re a contractor that provides services to the federal government. Typically, your contract will require you to pay your employees the prevailing wage rates promulgated under the Service Contract Act.
What if you suspect that, under previous contracts, your competitors failed to pay their employees the mandated prevailing rates? Can you use a pre-award bid protest to obligate a procuring agency to police possible ongoing non-compliance through solicitation provisions? If you say yes, perhaps you should keep reading.
The Service Contract Act requires contractors to pay certain provide no less than certain prevailing wages and fringe benefits (including vacation) to its service employees. The amount of vacation ordinarily is based on an employee’s years of service—and service with a predecessor contractor counts. The FAR’s Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers provision, in turn, requires follow-on contractors to offer a “right of first refusal” to many of those same incumbent employees.
A follow-on contractor is to be given a list of incumbent service personnel, but that information ordinarily isn’t available at the proposal stage. So what happens when a follow-on contractor unknowingly underbids because it isn’t aware how much vacation is owed to incumbent service personnel? The answer, at least in a fixed-price contract, is “too bad for the contractor.”
So it was in SecTek, Inc., CBCA 5036 (May 3, 2017)—there, the Civilian Board of Contract appeals held that a contractor must pay employees retained from the incumbent nearly $170,000 in wage and benefit costs based on its underestimate of those costs in its proposal.
The government can terminate a contract when the Department of Labor has made a preliminary finding of non-compliance with the Service Contract Act, even if the contractor has not exhausted its remedies fighting or appealing the finding.
The 3-0 (unanimous) decision by the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals in Puget Sound Environmental Corp., ASBCA No. 58828 (July 12, 2016) is troubling because it could result in other contractors losing their contracts based on preliminary DOL findings–perhaps even if those preliminary findings are later overturned.
The Department of Labor has announced a new “preassessment” initiative, under which a government contract can voluntarily ask the DOL for an assessment of the contractor’s record of labor law compliance.
The preassessment program is designed to help contractors discover if they may have any trouble with their mandatory disclosures under the new Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, which will take effect beginning on October 25. Voluntary use of the preassessment program may be a good idea for any contractor with a history of labor issues, but I wonder what will be more likely–contractors choosing to use it on their own, or being pushed to use it by prospective teammates?
A Maryland couple has pleaded guilty to defrauding the government in connection with more than $30 million in set-aside contracts.
And, apparently not content with “mere” procurement fraud, the couple has also entered guilty pleas to charges of fraud under the Service Contract Act and tax evasion.