Denied Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification? How to Appeal a WBE Denial Through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Counsel

December 30, 2020
By Danielle Dietrich
Posted in Business Services, Women and Diverse-Owned Businesses

Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification could be a valuable tool to help your business access additional opportunities.  This blog post will cover the appeal process for WBE certifications through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and its Regional Partner Organizations (RPO).  According to WBENC, its RPOs are authorized to administer the WBENC certification, one of the most well-known WBE certifications, across the United States

In order to obtain WBENC certification, your business must show that it is at least 51 percent owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a woman or women.  The application process involves providing a lot of information and documentation about your business and its owners to the RPO, who will also conduct a site visit (virtually in times of COVID-19).

If your application for WBENC certification is denied, you can either reapply later, or appeal.  There are two levels of appeal.  The first is to the local RPO board.  If you are unsuccessful there, you can appeal to the WBENC Board of Directors.

Below we will outline the appeals process, according to the WBENC Standards and Procedures: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/53ee2f53e4b08ae50e0b57a4/t/5a86f27571c10bc44db2c052/1518793333872/WBENC_Standards__Procedures_Feb2018.pdf.

Appeal to the Local RPO Board

The first step in appealing a denial of WBENC certification is to request a meeting with the RPO’s Executive Director or President to discuss the reasons for the denial.  This is for informational purposes only but may give your business an idea of the challenges you may face on appeal.

If you decide to pursue the appeal, you must make a request in writing to the RPO Board of Directors within 30 days of the date of your denial letter.

The RPO Board of Directors will then contact you to schedule an appeal date – if they deem it necessary.  Each RPO will have an Appeals Committee, made up of at least three trained members.  Their decision will be based upon the initial application materials, as well as any requested additional information.  Please note that the committee cannot consider changes in the ownership or control of the business that took place after you requested certification.  Within 30 days of your request, the Appeals Committee will review the file and make a recommendation to the RPO Board of Directors.  If there are new reasons for the denial, you will be notified and given 14 days to respond.

Within 15 days of the Appeal Committee’s recommendation, the RPO Board of Directors will either overturn the denial and grant certification or will uphold the denial.  You will be notified within seven days.

If this appeal results in a denial, your options are to 1) reapply for certification within six months of the date of the original denial, or 2) appeal to the WBENC Board of Directors within 30 days from the date of the appeal letter upholding the initial denial.

Appeal to WBENC Board of Directors

Once WBENC receives your appeal, the President of WBENC will determine, on the basis of information provided by both the appellant business and the RPO, whether there is a reason to evaluate the appeal.  Again, changes subsequent to the initial application will not be considered.

If the President determines that there is insufficient evidence, the denial is upheld, and your appeal is over.

If the President determines that there is evidence for appeal, they will forward it to the Appeals Sub-Committee for review and obtain the original file from the RPO.

The Appeals Sub-Committee will review and make a recommendation to the WBENC Board of Directors within 120 days to either uphold the denial or certify the applicant.  This recommendation will be reviewed by the WBENC Board of Directors, and the President will notify the applicant of the final decision.

If the business is denied, there is no further avenue of appeal. However, the applicant may reapply within six months of the date of the original denial letter.

If your company has questions or needs advice regarding WBE, MBE or DBE certification or appeals, please contact Danielle Dietrich at 412-227-0284 or ddietrich@smgglaw.com.