July 2014, President Obama made a historic decision to sign an Executive Order, impacting the federal government and federal contractors that forbids discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
Presently, there are no federal laws that protect or prohibit discrimination. Only 18 states, plus the District of Columbia, implement laws to protect LBGT employees from being terminated from their jobs based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Obama believes that now is the time to “address this injustice for every American.” He said there are too many states and workplaces that can fire employees simply because they are lesbian, gay, or transgender. Efforts to expand workplace laws to LGBT workers through ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) have been delayed in legislative battle.
The Executive Order is consistent with the President’s plan and actions concerning federal contractor equal pay initiatives and minimum wage. The order will impact an estimated 24,000 companies that have approximately 28 million employees. President Lyndon Johnson put into place Executive Order 11246 in 1965 to prohibit discrimination by federal contracts in the workplace based on gender, race, color, religion, or national origin. Obama’s amendment to Executive Order 11246 will include gender identity and sexual orientation and applies to any contractor and subcontractor of the federal government.
The Secretary of Labor has been prompted to prepare and execute regulations by October 19, 2014 (or within 90 days). As issues surrounding LGBT marriage begin to come to a close, employment discrimination could take the front-line for gay rights. This Executive Order marks a major triumph for the LGBT community. However, it does not extend to employers nationwide and still leaves the majority of the LGBT population vulnerable to discrimination. The President noted that currently, more states in our country permit same-sex marriage than prohibit gay discrimination in the workplace.
The Executive Order is just the first step in stopping nationwide discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender.