Dem pushes expanding anti-discrimination protections for contractors

Moriah Ratner

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a former chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said Wednesday that she plans to introduce legislation to extend federal anti-discrimination laws to independent contractors.

Under current law, independent contractors are not covered by federal anti-discrimination protections such as for race, gender, age and religion like traditional employees.

Norton said the lack of equal protection can allow employers to take advantage of classifying workers as independent contractors to avoid complying with certain workplace requirements.


“Our anti-discrimination laws were written long before this dramatic shift in the workplace. Our laws need to catch up and change as the workforce changes. An increasing number of contractors need to be treated as their employers are treating them — as employees,” Norton said in a statement.

Norton’s proposal comes as the House prepares to consider legislation to overhaul Capitol Hill’s sexual harassment policies.

A group of bipartisan lawmakers unveiled legislation last week that would streamline the process for staffers to report harassment complaints and require lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct to personally reimburse taxpayers for any monetary settlements reached with victims.

The bill is expected to advance through the House Administration Committee and reach the floor in the coming weeks.

Norton, the District of Columbia’s nonvoting representative in Congress, also introduced legislation in November to ensure that Capitol Hill staffers are entitled to the same legal protections against sexual harassment as in other workplaces.

That bill would subject Congress to the civil rights, health and safety standards that apply to federal agencies and the private sector.

Before serving in Congress, Norton authored new regulations to explicitly ban sexual harassment in the workplace after she became the first woman to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the 1970s.

Prior to leading the commission, Norton represented female employees at Newsweek who alleged in a class-action lawsuit that the magazine’s male leadership engaged in gender discrimination.

Tags anti-discrimination D.C. Eleanor Holmes Norton employee protections Sexual harassment

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