DOL Proposes New Antidiscrimination Rules Under the WIOA

ADA, Disability Rights, Pregnancy Discrimination, Sex Discrimination

On July 22, 2014, President Obama signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The WIOA is intended to help educate and train individuals and match up qualified and skilled workers with employers. To achieve these goals, the WIOA modified and superseded several other federal programs.

Despite the WIOA updating existing laws and creating new ones, certain discrimination-protection-related gaps still existed, such as pregnancy discrimination. This article intends to summarize some of the proposed changes the Department of Labor (DOL) has crafted to fill these regulatory gaps.

WIOA and the Current Status of DOL Regulations

The DOL, along with other federal agencies, is charged with supervising the implementation of the WIOA. Part of the WIOA’s mission is providing financial assistance to job training and placement programs for youth and adults. Any program covered by the WIOA is not allowed to discriminate against a federally recognized protected class. This discriminatory prohibition applies to how organizations choose individuals to participate in programs as well as how the organization hires its own employees.

However, existing regulations do not reflect the current status of antidiscrimination law. For example, current DOL regulations under the WIOA do not consider pregnancy discrimination as a form of sex discrimination, even though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and established case law say otherwise.

A protected class is a group of individuals who share a common trait that is legally protected against discrimination.

For more information about the WIOA and pregnancy discrimination, please see the DOL’s Employment and Training Administration’s WIOA website as well as the Q/A Pregnancy Discrimination section of our website.


DOL’s Proposed New Rules

On January 26, 2016, the DOL released new proposed rules that seek to bring DOL regulations in line with current federal law. Significant changes include the following:

Summing It Up

The WIOA is a federal law that aims to help adults and youth receive employment-related education and training and obtain jobs with employers.

Because DOL regulations are not current with respect to federal antidiscrimination laws, the DOL has recently published proposed new regulations that will update existing regulations and that are designed to:

  • prohibit discrimination based on a limited ability to speak English;
  • interpret existing disability antidiscrimination regulations in ways that are consistent with the ADAAA;
  • confirm that pregnancy discrimination, transgender discrimination, gender identity discrimination, and sex stereotyping are forms of sex discrimination; and
  • clarify what may be considered unlawful harassment on the basis of sex.

If you have any questions about your rights under this law, please contact our law firm.