Contractors mulling lawsuit against city of New Orleans over local-hiring ordinance

Updated Dec 9, 2015

Img 0069City officials in New Orleans are contending with the ire of both supporters and opponents of a new law in the city that requires contractors on city jobs to hire more local workers.

According to a report from The Times-Picayune, the City Council approved the law in October, requiring contractors to “make a good faith effort” to ensure that 30 percent of workers staffed on city contract jobs are from the New Orleans area. And in 2020, that total is set to rise to 50 percent.

The ordinance, which city officials say was designed to be a bit vague, left a lot of contractors’ heads spinning, especially given the fact that currently, only 21 percent of local workers are employed on these jobs.

Here’s the Picayne’s explanation of how the process works:

“Under the proposed regulations, the two lowest bidders on qualifying jobs would have to submit a “manpower utilization schedule” laying out how much labor the project required. The winning bidder would then have to submit a list of the positions it expected to have to fill in order to do the job and then submit a roster of all the workers, including the names and addresses of anyone who might work on the project.

“The draft rules do not explicitly define “good faith effort,” though they lay out a list of several specific efforts the company must make when filling vacancies.”

Among those are posting job openings at local union halls and considering applicants from the city’s job training program. And while they are under no obligation to hire those applicants, the contractor is required to document those they considered “and justify why the applicants were not hired.”

In the end, if a contractor doesn’t meet the local-hire percentages, it can be held against the firm in future bidding. And if the city doesn’t deem the contractor as having made “a good faith effort,” they can be held in material breach of contract, the paper reports.

So, it’s easy to understand why contractors don’t like it and why some are threatening to sue the city. But now even advocates for the law say it needs to be re-worked because city officials have left too many loopholes that contractors can exploit.