The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program (OFCCP), which regulates companies that contract or sub-contract to do business with the federal government, issued proposed rules last week that would replace the existing sex-discrimination guidelines for contractors. The proposed rules purport to account for changes in sex-discrimination laws that have occurred since the rules were first adopted in 1970 and to address current workplace issues.

Among other changes, the proposed regulations: 

  • Shift emphasis from overt discriminatory practices that no longer exist (such as gender-segregated job advertisements or “male-only” hiring policies) to more subtle forms of sex-based discrimination, including sexual harassment, sex-based job segregation and classification, and discrimination based on gender-based stereotypes related to family caretaking responsibilities or gender norms.
  • Expand protections to pregnant applicants and employees, consistent with the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, by, among other things, prohibiting employers from forcing pregnant employees to take leave or limiting their job duties and by obligating employers to provide pregnant employees reasonable accommodations and, in some situations, health or disability insurance.
  • Clarify that harassment or discrimination based on gender identity constitutes unlawful sex-discrimination.
  • Broadly define and explicitly prohibit sex-discrimination in compensation and fringe benefits.

Interested parties have until March 31, 2015 to comment on the proposed regulations before the OFCCP finalizes them.