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Government Contractor Discrimination Update: Out of the Mad Men Era

As of August 15, 2016, new sex discrimination guidelines go into effect for federal government contractors. The Federal Contractor Final Rule brings sex discrimination regulations up-to-date with current employment law in the workplace. 

What do the New Regulations Say:

Essentially, the new guidelines bring Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) into compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Federal contractors cannot discriminate in the workplace because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran.  The old regulations were extremely outdated, and hadn't been substantially updated since 1970.  The Department of Labor Fact Sheet for the new Final Rule states that the "OFCCP brings guidelines from the 'Mad Men' era to the modern era."  

The Final Rule addresses areas such as pay discrimination, sexual harassment, lack of accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, as well as discrimination based on gender identity and sex stereotypes.  Contractors also cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of gender identity in providing fringe benefits. 

Who is Covered by New Guidelines?

The regulations apply to any business that either:

(1) holds a single federal contract, subcontract, or federally assisted construction contract or subcontract for more than $10,000;

(2) holds federal contracts or subcontracts with a combined total more than $10,000 in any 12-month period; or

(3) serves as a depository of federal funds, or is an issuing and paying agency for U.S. savings bonds and notes in any amount.

In practice, the new rules will protect millions of employees and applicants, who work or seek to work with federal contracts.  An employee doesn't have to specifically work on a federal contract to be covered, but rather, they only need to work for a company holding covered federal contracts.  An employee working for a federal contractor, who believes they have been discriminated against, has many options available to them including filing a complaint with the OFCCP.  The Thatcher Law Firm regularly represents employees in administrative actions against their employers due to discrimination.

Federal Contractor Employers:

Federal government contractors must review their employee handbooks to ensure their policies are non-discriminatory and gender-neutral.  Training programs should be revised to address the nuanced forms of discrimination addressed by the OFCCP and Department of Labor.  The Thatcher Law Firm regularly updates employee handbooks for government contractors, and provides training to management.

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