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New DOL rules ban sex discrimination

By: Dan Shaw, [email protected]//November 23, 2016//

New DOL rules ban sex discrimination

By: Dan Shaw, [email protected]//November 23, 2016//

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For the first time in 40 years, the U.S. Department of Labor has revised its regulations banning sexual discrimination in federal contracting.

According to an official statement, the Department of Labor’s new rule was needed to ensure its internal guidelines reflect developments in case law, federal statutes and requirements adopted by other federal agencies. Among other things, the new regulations adopt explicit protections against: compensation discrimination, sexually hostile workplaces, discrimination against pregnant women or women who have other medical conditions, and discrimination stemming from sexual stereotypes.

The new rule will apply to both companies that contract directly with the federal government and those that work on projects that receive federal money. Specifically affected will be companies that, within any given 12-month period, hold federal contracts worth $10,000 or more.

The Labor Department stated the purpose of the change is to ensure that anti-discrimination guidelines reflect current interpretations of the federal executive order that, in 1965, established the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. The order, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, directed the new office to add non-discrimination and affirmative-action rules to all federal and federally assisted projects.

“The rule adopted … will mean that long debunked stereotypes will not keep workers from getting a new job or a promotion,” Latifa Lyles, director of the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, said in a statement. “This is an important reminder that there is no such thing as ‘women’s work’ or ‘men’s work,’ there is only work.”

The new rule is the latest change to be handed down in the final few years of the Obama Administration. Many, if not all, of the new regulations have received a cold reception from the construction industry.

Brian Turmail, spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America, said industry officials never particularly like new mandates. But, compared with some other recent ones, this latest rule from the Labor Department seems fairly benign, he said.

“It’s not something we asked for, but it’s not something we are opposing,” Turmail said. “It’s an update we weren’t surprised to see the government making.”


Here are some of the most noteworthy changes to workplace rules:

  • In March, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released new rules seeking to curtail workers’ job site exposure to silica dust, a contaminant linked to respiratory diseases. Various industry groups, including the Associated General Contractors of America and the Associated Builders and Contractors, have mounted a legal challenge calling for the courts to review the rule.
  • In May, the Department of Labor released a rule extending overtime benefits to certain salary workers who make as much as $47,476 a year. The limit previously had been $23,660. Industry representatives said the change will fall heavily on contractors, who might respond simply by replacing the salaries paid to some employees with wages.
  • An OSHA rule that took effect Aug. 10 requires contractors to submit electronic reports of workplace injuries and illnesses. Companies have always had to keep such records at worksites for OSHA inspectors to review but previously were not obliged to submit the information electronically.
  • In March, the Department of Labor issued a rule requiring employers to disclose the identities of any outside consultants who might have been brought on to dissuade employees from joining or supporting a union. The Associated Builders and Contractors, an industry group that represents mostly nonunion companies, questioned if the rule will violate the attorney-client privilege now enjoyed by contractors who consult outside lawyers.
  • In August, the National Labors Relation Board handed down a decision that many industry experts believe could make general contractors liable for labor violations affecting workers employed by subs.


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