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Labor Department revises gender discrimination rules for federal contractors

The U.S. Department of Labor made headlines -- and history -- earlier this week when it announced that it will soon be publishing a final rule introducing updates to its interpretation of Executive Order 11246 in a long overdue effort to bring it into line with current laws on workplace discrimination and reflect the reality of the modern workforce.

In today's post, we'll take a closer look at what exactly this entails and what it means going forward.

What exactly is Executive Order 11246?

Executive Order 11246, signed by then-President Lyndon Johnson back in 1965, established the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and, among other things, instructed federal agencies and departments to introduce non-discrimination and affirmative action rules in all federal contracts.

For our purposes, it forbids those companies with either federal contracts or subcontracts from engaging in employment discrimination based on gender.

This seems like a timeless objective, what then is the purpose of this new rule?

The problem, say federal officials, is that the guidelines against gender discrimination outlined in Executive Order 11246 haven't been revised in over 40 years, paving the way for potentially unscrupulous -- and even illegal -- conduct by federal contractors and subcontractors to go unchecked.

What will the new rule accomplish?

The new rule, which will be published in a forthcoming edition of the Federal Register, will expressly amend the OFCCP's gender discrimination provisions to bring them into alignment with current law. Indeed, federal contractors and subcontractors will have to abide by all applicable workplace protections, including those outlawing unequal pay and discrimination.

"[I]t is important that we bring these old guidelines from the ‘Mad Men’ era to the modern era, and align them with the realities of today’s workplaces and legal landscape,” said the director of the OFCCP.

It's incredibly encouraging to see this longstanding state of affairs -- and its resulting  inequity -- finally relegated to the past.

If you believe that you have been victimized by workplace discrimination in any capacity, it's imperative to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options.  

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