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: