Today, President Obama’s Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination goes into effect, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity by all federal contractors across the country. The order is an important mile marker on the path toward LGBT workplace equality. Widely considered a civil rights victory, it is designed to ensure that LGBT individuals are judged not by who they are or whom they love, but by the quality of their work. This will have the effect of creating a more dynamic and inclusive workforce that captures the talents and abilities of the LGBT community.
Each year, federal contractors and subcontractors are given billions of taxpayer dollars to supply goods, provide services and perform construction work for government agencies. In return, they are held to the reasonable standard that they may not discriminate in hiring, firing, pay, promotion and other employment practices. Until today, the protected categories only included race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and status as a protected veteran. Now, in the first expansion since 1974, LGBT Americans can fully enjoy these same protections.
The added standard now covers every type of new and modified federal contract. In addition, it applies to every establishment of those contractors and subcontractors – not just the ones directly involved in performing the contract. However, it does not require employers to undertake any new record keeping, data analysis, goal setting or other similar affirmative action. Nor are employees and job applicants required to identify their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Department of Labor stated that it is working hard to make this process as easy as possible for contractors. Many already ban sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, understanding that it’s both good for their bottom lines and the right thing to do. In addition, the Department is committed to compliance assistance and other valuable resources, some of which are available online, as is information for workers and job applicants who wish to file a complaint.