Dept of Labor Announces Final Rule Banning LGBT Discrimination in Federal Contracting and Employment

by Stephen Peters

WASHINGTON – Today the Department of Labor announced the final rule for the federal government incorporating the executive order signed earlier this year by President Obama prohibiting workplace discrimination against transgender federal employees and LGBT employees of federal contractors. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, praised the implementation of the new rule and vowed to continue its fight for these same protections to be extended to all LGBT Americans, not just federal employees and contractors.

“Thanks to the strong leadership of the Obama administration and the tireless work of equality advocates, transgender federal employees and LGBT employees of federal contractors are now guaranteed basic protections from discrimination in the workplace,” said David Stacy, HRC’s Government Affairs Director.  “However, no American should be denied a job opportunity, fired, or discriminated against just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  HRC is committed to working with our allies in Congress to pass comprehensive federal legislation that provides these same fundamental protections to all Americans.”

As the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs begins to implement the new rule, HRC will advocate for strong guidance ensuring full equality for LGBT people.  

On July 21, President Obama signed an executive order explicitly protecting transgender federal employees from workplace discrimination by amending an order issued by President Bill Clinton banning sexual orientation discrimination within the federal workforce.  In the same order, President Obama set strong new standards for federal contractors prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, which employ 20 percent of the American workforce. In so doing, the Obama administration has guaranteed that 14 million more American workers will be protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

At the urging of HRC and other LGBT advocates, the Obama administration declined to create a separate carve-out or standard for LGBT employees. Instead, the President elected to narrowly amend Executive Order 11246, first signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965—placing sexual orientation and gender identity on equal footing with race, color, religion, sex and national origin, and thus making these protections difficult for a future administration to undo.

The federal contractor executive order is broadly supported by the American public. A 2011 poll of likely voters conducted for HRC by GQRR found that 73 percent favored such an order and support was strong regardless of age, race, education, political ideology, and a number of other demographics.

Under Executive Order 11246, first issued by President Johnson in 1965, companies contracting with the federal government for $10,000 or more in a single year are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on race, color, religion, or national origin.  His order built on prohibitions on race discrimination in various federal contracts issued by prior presidents, as far back as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that predated broader civil rights protections. In addition, since 1967, the executive order has also prohibited discrimination based on sex.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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