Labor Department audit identifies recordkeeping, faculty recruiting violations

By Janine Faust, Editor-in-chief

An audit conducted at Pitt earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Labor identified several violations relating to recordkeeping and faculty recruiting practices, according to a conciliation agreement made between the University and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. 

The OFCCP, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, began a compliance evaluation of the University on Feb. 5, 2016. It issued Pitt a notice of violation on March 29 of this year, alleging the University committed eight different violations, with most occurring between the period of Nov. 2014 and Oct. 2015. 

Violation 2 describes a failure to maintain an auditing program periodically measuring the effectiveness of its affirmative action program. Violations 5 and 7 describe a failure to collect and maintain data pertaining to faculty applicants and hires who are protected veterans and applicants and hires who are individuals with disabilities, respectively. 

Other violations include a failure to collect and maintain personnel and employment records for a period of not less than two years from the date they were made and a failure to submit an acceptable job group analysis with similar wage rates and opportunities. Violation 4, the only violation described as continuing past Oct. 2015 up until the notice was served, states that the University “failed to immediately list all employment openings with either the state workforce agency job bank or a local employment service delivery system serving the location where the openings occurred.”

In a statement, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Pam Connelly explained that the OFFCP’s findings address “technical or record-keeping concerns” and the government office found no evidence of discrimination in personnel processes on the University’s part. 

“The University takes seriously the review’s findings, and we’ve responded to remediate those concerns,” she said. “The review also shows the University made good faith efforts to ensure equitable employment processes. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of the Provost, and the Office of Human Resources are in the process of implementing revised record-keeping processes that address the findings, and Pitt voluntarily agreed to report its progress to OFCCP.” 

The compliance agreement, signed in late April, details actions Pitt must undertake to remedy the eight violations, including providing proper documentation of applicants and hires during the reported period who identified as a protected veteran or an individual with a disability. 

Pitt will be required to provide the OFCCP with two annual progress reports, with the first due a year from the effective date of March 29, covering the 10-month period of time beginning on the effective date. The second report will cover the following 10 month and must be mailed within 60 days after the close of that 10-month period. The Conciliation Agreement will remain in effect until the review and acceptance of Pitt’s final progress report by the OFCCP.

In an email, Cheryl Ruffin, Institutional Equity Manager at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, explained that the “technical concerns” which led to the violations related to recordkeeping were the result of electronic systems failing to consistently maintain faculty applicant information “due, in part, to the bulk of faculty recruiting occurring at the School or Department level.”

She said the technical concerns have since been resolved.

“The University has implemented additional controls related to recordkeeping for faculty recruiting and has upgraded its electronic systems to facilitate the required recordkeeping while allowing Schools and Departments to retain the control over their recruiting processes necessary for recruiting qualified faculty in a timely manner,” she said.

Specifically in response to Violation 4, which alleges that the University failed to immediately list employment openings with the state workforce agency job bank, Ruffin explained that the decentralized nature of faculty recruiting led to openings for faculty positions not being consistently listed with PA CareerLink, the state job board.

“In connection with the University’s additional controls related to recruiting for faculty, faculty positions are now being consistently listed with PA CareerLink,” she said.

In response to Violation 3, which claims the University failed to submit an acceptable Job Group Analysis between Nov. 2014 and Oct. 2015, Ruffin said the University’s large number of employees made categorizing jobs into groups sharing similar content, wage rates, and opportunities challenging.

“In 2016, the University made substantial revisions to its Affirmative Action Programs and this included refining the job groups so that each job group combined much narrower groups of jobs,” she said. “The revisions have worked well and have enhanced the University’s affirmative action and diversity efforts.”

In her statement, Vice Chancellor Connelly said compliance reviews are beneficial since they allow for an outside perspective and reinforce the importance of retaining records and “conducting all searches in an equitable manner.”

“The Office of Diversity and Inclusion encourages all departments to utilize best practices in hiring decisions and can assist departments if they have process questions,” she said.