US DOL Issues Final Rule Regarding EEO in Apprenticeship Opportunities

Author: Marta Moakley, XpertHR Legal Editor

January 4, 2017

The US Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a final rule that updates equal employment opportunity (EEO) requirements with respect to apprenticeships. The EEO regulations implementing the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937 were last updated in 1978.

Current protections against discrimination will be expanded to include:

  • Disability;
  • Age (40 years or older);
  • Genetic information; and
  • Sexual orientation.

Although the regulations currently protect against sex discrimination, the DOL seeks to promote increased gender diversity. Male workers account for, on average, 92.9% of all new enrollments in registered apprenticeships. While the overall labor force is 46.8% female, women account for just 7.1% of new enrollments in registered apprenticeships.

The DOL emphasizes the benefits of diversity for employers, explaining that the provisions simplify the steps to comply with the law and help businesses leverage the program's benefits. The DOL also cites to international studies that claim that, for every dollar spent by employers on apprenticeship, an average of $1.47 is gained in increased productivity and greater front-line innovation.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Portia Wu said in a press release, "The department continues to look for ways to help states strengthen their workforce. This rule provides a more flexible framework for them, and creates more opportunities for workers and employers to take advantage of modern apprenticeships."

The regulations take effect on January 18, 2017. However, the rule provides additional time for sponsors to come into compliance with the rule. Specifically, employers will have:

  • Approximately 180 days to come into compliance with the nondiscrimination provisions; and
  • Up to two years to comply with updated affirmative action obligations.

The DOL intends to provide a series of technical assistance opportunities to all state apprenticeship agencies and other key stakeholders, and has published FAQs and other resources to encourage compliance with the rule.