• Landmark Changes to Sex Discrimination Rules for Federal Contractors; OFCCP Proposes First Revisions in 40 Years
  • March 3, 2015
  • Law Firm: Leech Tishman - Pittsburgh Office
  • On January 30, 2015, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) proposed the first revisions to sex discrimination rules for federal contractors in four decades.  The OFFCP aims to address many of the realities affecting today’s workforce and the challenges they present.

    Executive Order 11246 prohibits covered federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin. It also requires that certain contractors take affirmative action to ensure applicants are hired and employed without regard to the bases outlined above.

    In its proposed rule, the OFCCP rescinds the current guidelines (41 C.F.R. Part 60-20) that direct federal contractors on how to avoid discriminating against an applicant or employee on the basis of sex. In their place, the OFCCP proposes guidelines that address practices that it believes continue to create discriminatory hurdles to equal opportunity.

    One addition in the proposed guidelines prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The current guidelines do not address discrimination against workers affected by these conditions. The proposed rule makes clear such discrimination is a form of unlawful sex discrimination, and that federal contractors cannot refuse to hire pregnant women or otherwise subject applicants or employees to adverse treatment because of their pregnancy or childbearing capacity. The proposed rule also makes it an unlawful practice for a federal contractor to limit a pregnant employee’s job duties based solely on the fact of her pregnancy, or to require a doctor’s note for a pregnant woman to continue to work when doctors’ notes are not required for employees who are “similarly situated.”

    Under the proposed rule, a contractor must also avoid making decisions on the basis of sex-based stereotypes, which would include taking adverse action against a female employee or applicant on the assumption that her family obligations will interfere with her work or adverse action against a male employee because he desires to take leave to care for his newborn.