Thursday, March 17, 2011

Government Meddling in Contractor Employment Practices

The Government and contractors have specific roles relative to contract performance. The Government defines the deliverables and contractors determine how best to perform the work. With rare exception, (e.g. contract clauses specifying "key" personnel) Government officials should not be directing contractors' selection or termination of employees. Giving such direction alters the traditional allocation of contractual responsibilities between the Government and its contractors. Its extremely disruptive and costly to contractors, especially in situations where contractors have no other work to assign to an employee that someone in the Government happens not to like or is "forced" to hire a particular individual for a position that is already filled or a position that is not necessary. It also diminishes the Government's ability to hold contractors accountable. Federal officials who encourage or direct the hiring or firing of specific individuals are misusing their federal positions.

Adherence to this separation of roles does not mean that the Government will or should refrain from providing feedback to contractors about their performance through the appropriate channels, including providing feedback to contractors about inappropriate behavior or performance concerns caused by specific contractor employees. Most contractors would welcome "courtesy" feedback about the performance and conduct of employees, especially if they might otherwise be unaware of those performance issues or customer concerns.

Contractors sometimes overstep their authority in a similar fashion. Where a particular contract requires a level of government oversight such as audit or quality, contractors sometimes try to dictate which particular government employee they'll allow into their plant or facility to perform those oversight activities. Valid concerns over independence or objectivity should be elevated to the appropriate authority but contractors should not otherwise have input into who a particular agency sends out to perform whatever review is required.

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