Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) director Craig Leen told legal industry representatives at a town hall meeting in New York that his office was concerned about issues of diversity and representation at law firms.

Specifically, the main issue posed by the government was how firms address the low representation rates of women, minorities, and minority women at partner levels.

The OFCCP was also asked how it addresses concerns in disclosing information on equity and non-equity partnership numbers for women and minorities.

The OFCCP, under the Department of Labor, is tasked with ensuring federal government contractors and subcontractors do not discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national orientation, gender identity, disability, or veteran status. It has enforcement power and can sanction contractors it finds in noncompliance. Leen said his office is currently focusing on compliance in the legal industry, financial services industry, tech industry, and universities.

Regarding the  question of whether law firm partners are employees for the purposes of employment law, Leen made it clear those legal distinctions would not halt inquiries but the OFCCP regards associates as employees subject to equal employment laws and that associate promotion rates to partner would be subject to OFCCP review. It was noted at the meeting that government contract isn’t the main source of income for many big law firms. They may rather not do business with the government than comply with the requirements. But it isn’t the only factor that can be done to push legal industry to change. There are numerous lawsuits against big law firms  alleging gender discrimination, student activism agitating for change in the industry and  PR concerns that would push law firms in the right direction.