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President Obama Prohibits LGBT Discrimination Against Federal Employees And Those Who Work For Federal Contractors

At the end of July, President Obama signed an Executive Order prohibiting LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) discrimination against federal employees and employees of federal contractors.  The Order amends Executive Order 11478 to add “gender identity” to the list of protected attributes on the basis of which discrimination in federal employment is forbidden.  Executive Order 11478 is a Nixon-era Order titled “Equal employment opportunity in the Federal Government.”  It had previously been amended in 1998 by President Clinton to forbid Federal employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Discrimination in Federal employment is now prohibited on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, age, sexual orientation or gender identity.

President Obama’s Order also amends Executive Order 11246, “Equal Employment Opportunity,” which prohibits discrimination by federal contractors with more than $10,000 of federal contracts in a year.  As amended by President Obama, the Order prohibits such contractors from discriminating against employees and job applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.  Contractors who violate these restrictions can have their contracts “cancelled, terminated or suspended … and the contract may be declared ineligible for” future federal government contracts.

As with President Obama’s earlier Executive Orders raising the minimum wage and prohibiting retaliation against workers who share their salary information, these changes are limited in scope because they only apply to federal employees and those who work for federal contractors.  President Obama’s goal is once again most likely to raise public awareness and interest in this issue so as to spur action by Congress to pass more far-reaching legislation.  The President confirmed this aim with comments he made during the signing ceremony, stating, “I’m going to do what I can, with the authority I have, to act … The rest of you, of course, need to keep putting pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation that resolves this problem once and for all.”

Brody and Associates regularly provides counsel on civil rights issues and employment laws in general.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.965.0560.