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On June 15, 2016, the US Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) published its final new sex discrimination rule. The new rule outlines obligations certain federal contractors and subcontractors must meet under Executive Order 11246 and its amendments. The rule will go into effect on August 15, 2016.
Prior to the publication of this new rule, the OFCCP Sex Discrimination Guidelines had not been significantly updated since 1970. Federal anti-discrimination law, by contrast, has changed dramatically in the intervening decades. The June 15, 2016 OFCCP Rule brings the rules for federal contractors and subcontractors in line with current law.
The new sex discrimination rule highlights several important points. The OFCCP estimates that more than 30 million women are employed by federal contractors or subcontractors. To put this in context, in 2010 the Department of Labor estimated that only 66 million women were employed in the U.S.
Federal contractors have certain obligations that go beyond what the law requires of private companies. For example, one Executive Order signed by President Obama in 2014 prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries; another prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against their employees based on sexual orientation. Employees of federal contractors who believe that their employer is violating its obligations under Executive Order 11246 may file a complaint with the OFCCP.
The new sex discrimination rule also highlights several key areas where gender discrimination in the workplace persists, including sex segregation within particular occupations (notably the construction trades), wage disparities (worse for women of color and women with disabilities), pregnancy and caregiver discrimination (worst among low income employees), sexual harassment (particularly in fields where women are under-represented, from construction to the tech industry, and sex-stereotyping.
Posted by Deborah K. Marcuse.