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DNA Tests Aren’t Required (or Necessary) for Diverse Business Certifications- Beware of Unqualified Consultants Giving Bad Advice
Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Recently, a White woman business owner came to me after a government contracting “consultant” told her that she must get a DNA test to successfully apply for the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification. Unfortunately, that client is out of pocket thousands of dollars for this advice and the test. To paraphrase Lizzo, this client just took a DNA test, turns out that advice was 100% wrong.

First, under the federal regulations, women are presumed socially and economically disadvantaged the same as minorities. If this woman met the other requirements for certification, whether she had a minority background is not relevant.

Second, a DNA test showing one’s genetic background is entirely irrelevant for purposes of DBE certification. As the USDOT has stated “[a] probabilistic report concerning someone’s genetic background based on a mass market commercial DNA test does not demonstrate that an individual, who in all or most respects has presented as white throughout his life, would have been positioned to be subject to discrimination and its effects.” Lonestar Program Control Group, LLC, 19-0151, November 14, 2019. To show a non-white background requires much more than a DNA test. An individual must show that they have held themselves out as a member of that minority community.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Another government contracting consultant recently advised a client pursuing a WOSB (woman-owned small business) certification to set up her business in a way that was directly contrary to the regulations. Thankfully, I was able to catch the issue in time and the client avoided the extra delay and expense that would have resulted to fix the results of that bad advice.

If you are hiring a consultant (or attorney) to provide you advice and guidance on DBE and other certifications, please take a few minutes to verify their expertise. Be wary of websites for consulting companies that don’t identify the individuals behind the company or detail their experience. Ask questions about whether they’ve handled issues like yours before. Ask for references and qualifications. Anyone can call themselves a government contracting consultant, regardless of experience. Be a smart shopper.

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