Changes address gender identity, pregnancy, sexual harassment

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced a proposal to clarify federal contractors' requirements to prohibit sex discrimination. The recommended changes would revise the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs' guidelines to align with laws, court decisions, and societal changes since they were originally issued in 1970.

"Our sex discrimination guidelines are woefully out of date and don't reflect established law or the reality of modern workplaces," said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu.

OFCCP's sex discrimination guidelines implement Executive Order 11246, which prohibits companies with federal contracts and subcontracts from sex discrimination in employment. The proposed rule would update these guidelines to reflect demographic developments such as the increased presence of women in the workplace, as well as legal developments: including a Supreme Court ruling recognizing that a sexually hostile work environment is a form of sex discrimination and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which strengthened workplace protections for pregnant women.

The agency's notice of proposed rulemaking addresses a variety of barriers to equal opportunity that too many women face in the workplace today, including pay discrimination, sexual harassment, failure to provide workplace accommodations for pregnancy, and gender identity and family caregiving discrimination.

"A person's gender should never determine whether or not she gets, keeps or advances in a job," says Latifa Lyles, director of the department's Women's Bureau. "The rule we are proposing will protect workers from losing out on job opportunities because of antiquated stereotypes, nonconformity with gender norms, or pregnancy."

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on January 30, and the public will have until March 31 (60 days) to provide comments. More information, including the text of the NPRM, is available at here.

In addition to Executive Order 11246, OFCCP enforces Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. Collectively, these three laws require contractors and subcontractors that do business with the federal government to prohibit discrimination and ensure equal opportunity in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and status as a protected veteran.

Read the Fact Sheet on the proposed rule and view an infographic on sex discrimination in the workplace. For more information, call OFCCP's toll-free helpline at 800.397.6251 or click here.