As of June 21 2016, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), a division of the United States Department of Labor, has new gender discrimination guidelines. The laws apply to businesses who seek to win or renew contracts to provide goods or services to the U.S. federal government.
This is the first time the OFCCP has updated its gender discrimination guidelines in over forty years.
Facts About the DOL Final Rule Issued for Federal Contractors
All businesses who have a contract with the United States federal government are federal contractors for the purposes of the guidelines, unless specifically exempted. For example, most contracts under the amount of $10,000 do not subject a business to these guidelines.
New DOL Guidelines Reflect Existing Gender Discrimination Law
The new guidelines are unlikely to lead to radical new requirements for federal contractors. In many regards, the rules simply reflect existing employment law. For example, the rule prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. This is directly in line with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
In other ways, the new guidelines for federal contractors go above and beyond the requirements of existing employment laws. For example, the OFCCP guidelines add "sex stereotyping" to the list of prohibited discriminatory practices. "Sex stereotyping" includes the assignment of employees to job roles based on stereotypical roles for that gender, such as assigning only women to roles that involve more caretaking responsibilities. According to The Society for Human Resource Management, these expansions of existing rules may create broader grounds for gender discrimination lawsuits against contractors.
Sex and Gender Discrimination Protections are Expanded
What are the areas where the new OFFCP guidelines expand on existing law? One area is pay discrimination, where the guidelines add sex stereotyping (described above) to the list of ways in which pay discrimination might arise. In other words, it's not acceptable to pay employees more or less for being in a particular job role if only one gender is being steered toward that job role, because of a gender stereotype.
Pregnancy Accommodation is Required
Another area where the OFCCP's guidelines go further than federal employment law is with regards to pregnancy discrimination and accommodation. In addition to protecting pregnant women against discrimination for their condition, the new rules also mandate that federal contractors provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women, including more frequent bathroom breaks, appropriate seating, and lighter work duties.
Gender Discrimination and Unequal Benefits are Addressed
The next area where the new federal contractor guidelines expand on existing federal civil rights is equal leave. The rules require contractors to provide childcare-related leave to employees on an equal basis, regardless of sex. The guidelines also promote the idea (but do not require) that contractors should foster an environment in which men and women are both encouraged to participate equally in childcare.
Transgender Discrimination is Considered Sex Discrimination
Explicit protections under the new rules also pertain to transgender employees of federal contractors. According to the guidelines, employers must provide transgender employees access to bathrooms, showers, changing rooms, and other private facilities based on the gender with which the employee identifies. The rules also take up the position of the EEOC that discrimination against transgender employees is a form of sex discrimination and is prohibited.
New DOL Sex and Gender Discrimination Guidelines: For Further Reading
- Discrimination on the Basis of Sex via FederalRegister.gov
- Final Gender Discrimination Rule for Federal Contractors Issued via National Law Review
- New DOL Rule Gives Agency Broader License to Sue for Pay Discrimination via SHRM.org
If you are being subjected to sex and gender discrimination and feel your employer is violating federal or California state employment laws, contact the passionate employment lawyers of Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation today.