Hiring contract incumbent employees under Executive Order 13495 has become a hot topic when bidding on government contracts. Contractors bidding for federal projects must avoid the painful mistakes seen too late at the bid protest stages. Your goal is to avoid getting the contract taken away due to the Ostensible Subcontractor Rule.
- Although the rules allow you to hire existing contract incumbent employees, there are limitations. By adequately preparing to bid, you can avoid the costly mistakes seen to date.
If not done correctly, small businesses can still face dangerous problems with SBA affiliation violation allegations. Although the SBA’s new rules reduce the impact of affiliation, the rule is still alive and well. About 65% of small business size protests are based on affiliation when hiring contract incumbent personnel.
- For example, hiring the wrong amount of management personnel or even non-management personnel can create problems especially when using the incumbent as a teaming partner or subcontractor.
Who is the Incumbent Employee?
This may seem to be a pretty straight forward question. However, facts sometimes are not so straight forward. If you are an employee that was employed with the prime contractor that was previously performing the contract, then you will probably be looked at as the incumbent employee. There is a question as to whether or not employees that left employment while working for the incumbent are characterized as incumbent employees.
- Subcontractor employees of the incumbent prime may not count
- Indepenent contractor of the incumbent contractor may not count
Incumbent Government Definition
For purposes of litigating small business size standard violations, the incumbent worker definition generally means an employee that was or is working for the current company performing the contract in question. Companies can still find themselves in trouble if they try to suggest that the incumbent worker will be paid from their payroll in the future.
General Rule for Offering Jobs to Contract Incumbent Employees Under Executive Order 13495
How Does the Right of First Refusal Rule Apply? As a government contractor, if you are the successful bidder and take over from the contract incumbent company in a service contract, you must offer employment on a right-of-first-refusal basis to qualified employees of the government incumbent contractor who otherwise would lose their jobs under Executive Order 13495. This rule applies to the extent that there are available positions. The Executive Order still has applicable limitations.
- Managerial and supervisory hires from the incumbent is fertile ground for legal attack under the rule.
- If your technical proposal shows that you are hiring incumbent management workers, you could face a challenge under the Ostensible Subcontractor Rule.
- The rule exempts contracts and subcontracts below the simplified acquisition threshold (currently $150,000).
On August 26, 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor implemented Executive Order 13495 entitled “Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers Under Service Contracts”. This involves service contracts.
Government contracting agencies pay special attention to bidders that propose to use contract incumbent employees in their proposals. Understanding the SBA’s affiliation and Ostensible Subcontractor Rule, and properly assessing your technical approach will reduce your chances of forfeiting your award when your competition files a size protest.
The Non-displacement rule can be confusing when also considering the Ostensible Subcontractor Rule. A common mistake made by contractors is to hire incumbent personnel for management and supervisory positions under the new contract. This can lead the courts to think that you are relying too much on the incumbent contractor.
How Could Hiring Contract Incumbent Employees Create Problems?
For purposes of government procurement, a contract incumbent means the actual contractor that is performing the contract before bids are accepted for the new contract. There can be legal disputes when a government incumbent happens to be part of a joint venture in the newly-awarded contract.
- Companies bidding on government contracts can violate the Rule if the prime is relying upon the qualifications of the incumbent subcontractor to perform the primary and vital requirements of the contract.
This analysis also can flow over to the awardee prime contractor as simply having no past performance and relying solely on the incumbent’s past performance to get the contract. In the event of a size protest, the SBA’s Area Office will base its ostensible contractor determination solely on the relationship between the parties at that time of submissions.
- Evidence submitted with the proposal is fair game for legal review.
- Any assertions not in accord with the proposal and teaming agreements are, therefore, irrelevant.
- Hiring incumbent contractor employees that are non-managerial employees do not generally create a problem.
Avoid Hiring Contract Incumbent Employees at the Management Level Under Executive Order 13495
Hiring contract incumbent employees or management staff can be dangerous under Executive Order 13495. Although your proposal or teaming agreement show that you, the prime will perform the contract’s primary and vital requirements, you can still be caught in a small business size protest if the facts show that you unduly reliant on incumbent employees (hiring large amounts of its personnel.)
The SBA Office of Hearings and Appeal (SBAOHA) ruled on this very same matter. See, SIZE APPEAL OF: Wichita Tribal Enterprises, LLC. In that case, the proposed prime contractor proposed the incumbent as the sub. The subcontractor could not have competed for the procurement on its own. The small business prime also intended to hire the large majority of its employees from the incumbent subcontractor.
- Hiring contractor employees was the biggest problem in this size protest because the prime contractor was a relatively new firm with modest revenues and little corporate experience.
Ostensible Subcontractor Rule Still Anticipates Hiring Incumbent Employees
It is normal and expected in Government services contracts for successor companies to start hiring incumbent employees. However, hiring non-supervisory employees en mass still creates a problem. The recently promulgated Executive Order 13.495 specifically encourages contractors to offer a right of first refusal of employment to qualified incumbent subcontractor non-managerial employees. Exec. Order No. 13,495, 74 Fed. Reg. 6103 (Feb. 4, 2009).
- Hiring a number of non-management incumbent staff is allowed.
- Do not overdo it when it comes to hiring contractor employees.
- Avoid hiring managerial employees.
Do Tribal 8(a) Contractors Become Immune to the Ostensible Subcontractor Rule?
Although tribal 8(a) companies have certain unique protections from affiliation under 13 CFR 124.109(c)(2)(iii).” Under the Ostensible Subcontractor Rule, the absolute exemption from the affiliation between tribally-owned sister companies for 8(a) contracts is “different than treating the sister companies as though they are one company.
The SBA may find that although tribally-owned companies may use the past performance of sister companies, if the sister company is NOT proposed as a subcontractor under the instant government contract, then the proposed tribally-owned prime may be left in the dark to defend its own performance under the upcoming contract.
- Despite the unique rules of tribal 8(a) companies, this deadly rule still applies
- Small businesses must pay special attention to hiring incumbent employees
- Seek help when responding to an upcoming proposal
For immediate help when planning to hire government contract incumbent employees under Executive Order 13495 or drafting teaming agreements, call our Government Contract small business attorneys at 1-866-601-5518. FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.