The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs issued a final rule yesterday, enforcing Executive Order 11246 and updating its sex discrimination guidelines for federal contractors. Prior to yesterday’s issuance, the OFCCP guidelines had not been substantively updated since 1970.

The intent and effect of the final rule updates the guidelines to be consistent with current federal case law and EEOC interpretation of sex discrimination issues under Title VII. To the extent there is presently conflicting or uncertain authority regarding the current interpretation of Title VII, the final rule primarily adopts the interpretations most beneficial to employees.

Under the updated guidelines, unequal pay, sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and sexual stereotyping are explicitly prohibited. Contractors must also:

  • Offer sick and family leave to mothers and fathers on the same terms;
  • Provide employees with workplace accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth and other medical conditions;
  • Offer equal benefits to male and female employees participating in fringe benefit plans such as health and life insurance programs;
  • Provide men and women with equal access to jobs and professional development opportunities by eliminating requirements based on sex or that have a disproportionate negative impact based on sex;
  • Permit employees to use bathrooms and changing rooms consistent with their gender identity.

The final rule will take effect on August 15, 2016, and applies to employers with federal contracts or subcontracts totaling $10,000 or more over a 12-month period, unless they are otherwise exempt.

Prior to the effective date, contractors should evaluate their policies and practices for preventing sex discrimination to ensure they are functionally effective and fully in line with the requirements of the updated guidelines. In particular, contractors should consider the recommended, voluntary best practices outlined in the updated guidelines to help ensure a workplace free of gender discrimination. As always, employee and management training will be an essential component of compliance.