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Challenges to DBE Goals in Federal Contracts Gain Steam

Construction Dive

A handful of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of workforce goals in federal construction contracts could make it harder for underrepresented groups to qualify for these lucrative jobs in 2024.   


A separate suit, known as Mid-America v. U.S. Department of Transportation, filed in October in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, takes direct aim at DOT’s DBE program. 


Justin Chiarodo, a government contract attorney in the Washington, D.C., office of Blank Rome, said that oral arguments in the case would likely hinge on the firms showing specific instances where they were discriminated against due to the DBE program. 

But he also said the suit could force DOT’s hand in having to do the same: Demonstrate actual cases of discrimination against participants in the program itself, an aspect that has previously been assumed under rebuttable presumption. 

From that perspective, an outcome could be applicants needing to document stories of racism, discrimination or exclusion, much as the SBA now requires social disadvantage narratives. 

“The programs are intended to address instances where those folks were discriminated against based on race,” Chiarodo said. “I think it is about the evidentiary demonstration that the agencies can make in showing actual discrimination.”

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"Challenges to DBE Goals in Federal Contracts Gain Steam," by Joe Bousquin was published in Construction Dive on January 9, 2024.