US DOL Proposes Major Revision of Sex Discrimination Rules for Federal Contractors

The US DOL Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has published a proposed rule updating the sex discrimination guidelines for federal contractors and subcontractors. The sex discrimination guidelines implement Executive Order 11246, which prohibits companies with federal contracts and subcontracts from sex discrimination in employment.

The proposed rule would replace existing sex discrimination guidelines, which have not been substantively updated since their adoption in 1970, with regulations in line with current law and social demographics. Specifically, the proposed rule would:

  • Clarify that adverse treatment of an employee because of gender-stereotyped assumptions about family caretaking responsibilities is discrimination.
  • Clarify that leave for childcare must be available to men on the same terms as it is available to women.
  • Confirm that contractors must provide workplace accommodations to women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.
  • Clarify that compensation discrimination can result from job segregation or classification on the basis of gender, not just unequal pay for equal work.
  • Confirm that contractors must provide equal benefits and equal contributions for male and female employees participating in fringe-benefit plans.
  • Make “quid pro quo” and hostile work environment sexual harassment express violations of the rule, and suggest as a best practice that contractors implement procedures to prevent sexual harassment.
  • Clarify that adverse treatment of employees because they do not conform to gender norms and expectations about appearance, attire, and behavior is unlawful sex discrimination.
  • Clarify that discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity is unlawful sex discrimination.
  • Change the “Sex Discrimination Guidelines” to regulations about “Discrimination on the Basis of Sex” to make clear that they have the force and effect of law.

The regulations apply to any business that holds federal contracts, subcontracts or federally assisted construction contracts in excess of $10,000, or that operates as a federal fund depository or paying agent for U.S. saving bonds and notes. Members of the public are invited to submit comments on the NPRM until March 31, 2015 here.

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