President Obama recently issued an Executive Order that protects federal employees and employees of federal contractors from discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Specifically, the President’s July 21, 2014 Executive Order adds the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of characteristics protected from discrimination under Executive Order 11478, which applies to federal contractors, subcontractors and construction employers working on federally assisted construction projects, and Executive Order 11246, which applies to federal employees.
In line with the President’s Executive Order, on August 19, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) issued a directive to clarify that it treats gender identity and transgender discrimination as prohibited forms of sex-based discrimination.
The interpretation of discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation, gender identity and transgender status is also consistent with decisions of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which has ruled the prohibition against sex-based discrimination extends to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination that apply to private employers, state and local government agencies, federal agencies, employment agencies and labor unions.
Given the expanded list of characteristics protected from employment discrimination under federal law, we may soon see an updated Equal Employment Opportunity posting with the new terminology. Stay tuned!