Labor Dept. broadens authority to probe pay discrimination claims

The Labor Department on Tuesday rescinded two George W. Bush-era guidance documents that the agency said served as barriers to properly investigating equal pay discrimination claims.

The department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) pulled back the 2006 documents, replacing them with new guidance for employers about the agency’s protocols for investigating allegations of pay discrimination.

“Everyone – including the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters among us – must be paid fairly and without discrimination,” acting Labor Secretary Seth D. Harris said in a written statement announcing the decision.

Contractors are already required to follow federal anti-discrimination regulations, but the two guidance documents commonly known as the "Compensation Standards" and "Voluntary Guidelines” limited OFCCP’s ability to enforce those rules, the Labor Department said.

The Bush-era guidelines required the agency to review contractor pay practices using a formula that did not allow them to take into account various factors, including industry and job type.

The move is meant to give the agency broader authority to examine employment practices and weigh available evidence to uncover discrimination.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), a leading equal pay advocate in Congress, lauded the action.

“The Department’s announcement is welcome news for the millions of women who are victims of pay discrimination,” said DeLauro. “These Bush-era ‘guidelines’ have hamstrung DOL and they never should have been implemented in the first place.”