Federal employment laws protect federal employees. They also ensure reasonable wages, safe workplaces and protections against discrimination for workers of all sorts. These include the people who work for companies contracted by the U.S. government. But you wouldn’t always know it.
According to a recent report from the Center for American Progress (CAP), government contractors are often among the worst offenders. Many of them have histories full of workplace violations.
A flagrant double standard
The CAP report notes that while government contractors often break federal employment laws, they face very few meaningful repercussions. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that contractors who break the rules rarely lose future contract opportunities. In fact, the GAO found that contractors only lost out on future contracts after two percent of rules violations from 2014 to 2019.
So, the law says that contractors need to pay their workers and maintain safe workplaces. But the data says contractors get to break the law and get new contracts, anyway.
What does this mean for the people who work for these contractors? That’s another question the CAP report explores:
- Contractors shortchanged their employees at least $224 million from 2014 to 2019
- Government contractors were responsible for 58 of the 100 largest workplace safety and health violations from 2007 to 2012
- 29% of the contractors responsible for the 58 safety and health violations continued to have “significant performance problems” on later contracts
And, as the CAP report points out, these contractors often harm more people than just their employees. They squander taxpayer money. As an example, one company spent $16.3 million to build a ship that was 18.3 tons too heavy and unable to fulfill its basic mission. These contractors can also put the public health at risk, such as when they take contracts in food production.
Contractors can stand against abuses
As the employee of a federal contractor, you have certain rights, which are protected by law:
- Wages in compliance with minimum wage standards
- Overtime pay of 1.5 times your basic rate for work beyond 40 hours in a week (with some exceptions)
- Safe and sanitary work conditions
You also receive certain whistleblower protections. After all, your employer’s workplace violations don’t just harm you. They harm your co-workers and all taxpayers. If government contractors think they can continue to break the rules, they’ll probably keep on doing that until workers report their wrongdoing.
Before you blow the whistle, you want to make sure you understand the process. Whistleblowers often find themselves subject to illegal retaliation. But when you prepare your case in advance, get the right evidence and follow all the right steps, you’ll be ready. You can protect yourself even as you protect others.