- The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs reached agreements settling allegations of pay discrimination with a number of companies, including AstraZeneca, IBM and Thomas Reuters Corp., it announced last week.
- Each of the companies were charged with failing to comply with Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors and some contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.
- The settlement payouts range from about $100,000 to $500,000. Federal contractor Serco will pay $150,000, while Aecom Management Services will pay $205,000 in back wages to employees it discriminated against. IBM will pay $350,000, Thomson Reuters $550,000, and AstraZeneca $560,000.
Executive Order 11246 was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. According to OFCCP, it "became a key landmark in a series of federal actions aimed at ending racial, religious and ethnic discrimination." It protects the rights of those employed by federal contractors, who make up a fifth of the U.S. workforce today, OFCCP says.
As exemplified by the series of settlements announced by the agency this month, pay discrimination is a key part of the prohibition against discrimination. President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13665 in 2014 and amended the one established by Johnson. The amendment prohibited federal contractors from retaliating against employees or applicants who ask about, discuss or talk about the details of their compensation.
Pay discrimination is a major focus for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — the agency that enforces federal anti-discrimination laws. Agency Chair Charlotte Burrows said earlier this year that pay equity will be "front and center" for the EEOC.
Attorneys say that employers may want to familiarize themselves with two federal laws that include pay discrimination prohibitions based on race, sex and other characteristics: the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.