For the past several years, Ahlers Cressman & Sleight has been closely following news of Washington State Department of Transportation’s (“WSDOT’s”) exclusion of non-minority women-owned Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (“DBEs”) from qualifying toward Condition of Award (“COA”) Goals on federally-funded projects. See ACS’s letter of January 9, 2014 and blog articles of June 2, 2017 and September 21, 2017.
In a striking—and long awaited—decision issued just days ago, USDOT rejected WSDOT’s recommendation to unwind the exclusion of non-minority women-owned DBEs from COA Goals, meaning women-owned DBEs in Washington remain excluded from DBE COA participation goals until September 2020.
As background, the DBE program is a program created by Congress with the goal of increasing women and minority-owned business participation in federally-funded transportation contracting. To withstand constitutional scrutiny, each state must tailor its program to the specific discrimination found to exist in that state. To that end, every three years, WSDOT must conduct a “Disparity Study,” aimed at statistically measuring the “discrimination” in the marketplace.