Hey, HR: Women Now Make up the Majority of the Workforce!

February 14, 2020 - minute read

For the first time in nearly a decade, women outnumber men in the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ recent jobs report, an estimated 76,246,000 women were on corporate payrolls in December 2019, eclipsing their male counterparts by 109,000.  

One reason women now make up 50.04% of America’s workforce: service-based industries tend to employ more women—and service-based industries added ten times more jobs last year than goods-based industries like manufacturing.

Whatever the reason, we think it’s an excellent reason to review some key compliance issues that impact your female workers.

Salary History Bans: Moving toward Pay Equity

Unfortunately, pay inequity is still a reality for women and minority workers. Salary history bans—which prohibit employers from asking job applicants about previous earnings—are intended to end the cyclical nature of pay discrimination.

While the Paycheck Fairness Act remains stalled in the Senate, at least 19 states and 19 counties and cities have passed salary history bans. While the specifics vary, employers can take steps to comply with these laws by:

  • Updating hiring policies.
  • Omitting salary history questions from job applications and interview scripts.
  • Rigorously retraining HR staff and managers involved in the hiring process.
  • Rethinking how compensation in set and implementing a pay transparency policy.  

To read up on this topic, see How to Comply with Salary History Bans and The Pros and Cons of Pay Transparency

Lactation Accommodations Support Nursing Mothers 

Young mothers are the fastest growing segment of the American workforce. Under the FLSA’s Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision, employers are required to provide breastfeeding employees with reasonable break time and a private space (other than a bathroom) to breast pump for one year after their babies’ birth.

The most efficient way to maintain compliance is to create a detailed lactation accommodation policy that addresses, among other things:

  • Where the designated lactation space is and what amenities are provided
  • How privacy is maintained.
  • How pumping breaks are scheduled.
  • Whether pumping breaks are paid or unpaid (if the employer offers paid breaks, employees using lactation accommodations must be paid the same way as their coworkers).

Happily, there are benefits to employers, in the form of lower health insurance costs and absenteeism (nursing moms and babies are healthier than their non-nursing counterparts) and improved retention and loyalty. Statistics indicate that new moms who receive strong support from their employers are more likely to return to work. 

For more information, read Does Your Company Accommodate New Mothers?

Sexual Harassment Training and Prevention

Despite increased #MeToo awareness, one-fourth of women have been sexually harassed at work, as have 10% of men. If you’ve had to deal with such accusations, you know how tricky and damaging this can be.

Sexual harassment is considered a form of discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) encourages employers to offer sexual harassment training, it doesn’t require it—although sexual harassment cases currently make up one-third of EEOC’s caseload.

Six states and two localities have recently passed legislation requiring employers provide sexual harassment training, and more are expected to follow. 

Employee training, well-defined HR policies and vigorous enforcement are proven to deter workplace sexual harassment. Even if you’re not currently required to conduct sexual harassment training, you may choose to be proactive.

For further discussion, see Workplace Sexual Harassment Laws in 2020 and Sexual Harassment Training for the Hourly Workforce.

Hairstyle Discrimination Bans on the Rise 

New Jersey, New York and California recently passed laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on hair styles associated with race. Minnesota is now considering legislation, and more states are expected to follow suit. 

If you reference specific hairstyles like dreadlocks and cornrows in your handbook—or if your managers call out employees for wearing them—it’s time to rethink your grooming policies. That means removing references to specific hairstyles in your handbook, particularly those with racial associations—and retraining managers accordingly.

Even if these laws don’t affect you (yet!), employees are becoming more sensitive to this issue. A great way to test your grooming policies: consider if they impact one employee demographic more than another.

For more detail, read Are You in Compliance with New Hairstyle Discrimination Bans?

Use HR Technology to Stay Compliant  

Does your HR and payroll software should help you maintain compliance with labor laws that affect your workforce? It should. EPAY’s HCM system makes it easy to update HR policies, forms and handbooks, and our online learning management system simplifies compliance training.

In addition, our clients have 24/7 access to our HR compliance portal—a font of useful, up-to-date information—and individualized HR consulting services on demand. To sample the compliance expertise we bring to the table, attend our upcoming webinar on one of the hottest compliance issues today: Legalized Marijuana & HR.

Filed Under: Compliance HR News Workforce Management Employee Benefits