HRC Blog

USAID Encourages Federal Contractors to Adopt Inclusive Non-discrimination Policies

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) issued an executive message earlier this month encouraging companies contracting with them to adopt non-discrimination employment policies protecting LGBT employees and other workers. This policy is the first of its kind to encourage contractors to adopt an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy based on their connection to the federal government. The new policy encourages all organizations performing under USAID contracts to apply the existing standards of non-discrimination in place for other classes to sexual orientation and gender identity. 

This is a hopeful first step in combating federally funded discrimination by contractors and will serve as a model and incentive for prospective contractors.  However, the policy is not mandatory, leaving USAID without the ability to enforce the it and leaving employees who experience discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity without formal recourse.

In our Blueprint for Positive Change, HRC recommended that President Obama amend the existing Executive Order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This amended Executive Order would require all companies contracting with the breadth of federal government agencies to have nondiscrimination policies in place based on sexual orientation and gender identity in order to do business with the federal government. This requirement would be enforced by the Department of Labor alongside other discrimination complaints against federal contractors.

A study released by the Williams Institute this fall showed that inclusive non-discrimination policies are good for the bottom line and have already been adopted by a bulk of the top 50 federal contractors. Eighty-one percent of the top 50 federal contractors have non-discrimination policies protecting employees based on sexual orientation and 44 percent include gender identity. The majority of these companies also link the adoption of non-discrimination policies and domestic partner benefits to tangible economic benefits, including recruitment and retention, ideas and innovation, and customer service.

Now is a great time for the Obama administration to follow the lead of these top federal contractors and to hold every company doing business with the federal government accountable for protecting their employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

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