Federal Contractors Are Violating Labor Laws, Senate Panel Finds

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa J. Scott Applewhite/AP

As many as 30 percent of the companies hit with the highest penalties for labor law violations are federal contractors, a year-long Senate committee investigation unveiled Wednesday found.

Forty-nine contractors were the subject of nearly 1,800 separate enforcement actions taken by the Labor Department from 2007 to 2012, paying penalties adding up to $196 million, according to the report released by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “These findings are deeply troubling,” Harkin said. “Not only are these contractors violating labor laws time and time again, but our federal contracting system has virtually no reliable tools in place to ensure that these violations of the law are ever considered before a contract is awarded.”

Forty-two American workers died during the period reviewed, as a result of Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations by companies holding federal contracts in 2012, the report said. For example, seven died in 2010 at a refinery owned by Tesoro in Anacortes, Wash., when a heat exchanger ruptured and released explosive vapor and liquid. The plant had not been inspected for 12 years, the report said, yet Tesoro received $463 million in federal contracts in fiscal 2012.

The companies, which taken together employ about 26 million workers, work primarily in services such as cleaning, security, and construction. In addition to the safety violations, 32 violated the Labor Department Wage and Hour Division’s back-wage assessment. Thirty-five companies violated both safety and wage laws.

The report criticized the current federal contracting process, recommending improvements in the quality and transparency of Labor Department information and publication of an annual list of federal contractors that were hit with penalties. It called for tougher enforcement through more-transparent databases at the Government Services Administration. And investigators recommended a White House executive order to create enforcement tools “beyond the existing responsibility determination and suspension and debarment process.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.