An Equal Opportunity Paradox for Federal Contractors

Employers who become federal contractors assume a litany of obligations, only some of which apply to non-contractor employers. Both federal contractors and non-contractors may “not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.” But, unlike non-contractors, federal contractors must “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their [protected characteristics].” Federal contractors must be especially mindful of abiding by these obligations because the potential consequences for noncompliance go far beyond the usual damages other employers face in discrimination cases. Contractors run the risk of losing a customer and, in some cases, a very significant customer—the federal government.

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