HR Management & Compliance

OFCCP proposes new rule on sex discrimination guidelines for contractors

by Tammy Binford

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) new proposed rule updating sex discrimination guidelines for federal contractors takes aim at what the director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) calls “regulatory anachronism.”

The proposed rule appears in the January 30 Federal Register. The public will have until April 14 to provide comments. A fact sheet and frequently asked questions are available on the OFCCP’s website. The revisions address discrimination based on gender identity and pregnancy as well as sexual harassment.

The original deadline to submit comments was March 31. However, the DOL extended the deadline for two weeks to give the public time to comment on the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 25, 2015, decision in Young v. United Parcel ServiceThat decision involved application of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. The OFCCP follows Title VII’s principles when enforcing the law against employment discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors.

“Our sex discrimination guidelines are woefully out of date and don’t reflect established law or the reality of modern workplaces,” OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu said in announcing the proposed rule. “We owe it to the working women of America—and their families—to fix this regulatory anachronism so there is no confusion about how federal contractors must comply with their equal opportunity obligations.”

The OFCCP’s guidelines implement Executive Order 11246, which prohibits companies with federal contracts and subcontracts from discriminating based on sex. The proposed rule would update the guidelines to reflect (1) the increased presence of women in the workplace, (2) the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which strengthened workplace protections for pregnant women, and (3) a U.S. Supreme Court ruling recognizing that a sexually hostile work environment is a form of sex discrimination.

The proposed rule addresses issues such as pay discrimination, sexual harassment, failure to provide workplace accommodations to employees who are pregnant or have gender identity issues, and family caregiving discrimination.