Jul 21, 2014
President Signs Executive Order Protecting LGBT Workers
Washington, D.C. - President Barack Obama today signed a long-awaited executive order to protect LGBT employees of federal contractors and transgender federal employees from discrimination.
The order amends the existing federal contractor nondiscrimination executive order, Executive Order 11246, to include sexual orientation or gender identity. Monday’s order also amends the existing federal workforce nondiscrimination order, Executive Order 11478, to include gender identity. President Clinton had amended that order in 1998 to include sexual orientation.
The order contains no additional religious exemptions for the sexual orientation or gender identity provisions beyond those already contained in the existing executive orders.
During the press conference, President Obama reminded the American people that in 29 states, including North Carolina, you can be fired for being gay or transgender, saying to the room full of LGBT workers and advocates, "that's wrong."
Before signing the executive order, the President added, "Now thanks to your passionate advocacy, our government will become just a little bit fair...We're on the right side of history."
In a fact sheet released by the White House, the Obama Administration outlined why "Taking Action to Support LGBT Workplace Equality is Good For Business:"
"American workers should be judged by one thing only: their ability to get the job done. That’s why the President has long supported federal legislation to explicitly prohibit employers across the country from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. For forty years, Congress has considered various pieces of legislation meant to address LGBT workplace equality. Last November, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with strong bipartisan support. However, the House has failed to act.
Today’s action is consistent with the President’s commitment to advancing equality for the LGBT community, as well as his commitment to expanding opportunity for American workers and strengthening American business. And it is consistent with actions being taken by employers, including many federal contractors, across the country to support workplace equality, because they recognize it improves productivity, reduces turnover and supports their bottom line."
Additional Information about President Obama’s Executive Order
Executive Order 11246, issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson, prohibits federal contractors from discriminating “against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” President Obama’s Executive Order will add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories.
President Obama’s Executive Order does not allow for any exemption beyond the one added by Executive Order 13279, issued by President George W. Bush, which permits religiously affiliated contractors to favor individuals of a particular religion when making employment decisions, by specifying that Executive Order 11246, “shall not apply to a Government contractor or subcontractor that is a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society, with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities. Such contractors and subcontractors are not exempted or excused from complying with the other requirements contained in this Order.” In addition, under the First Amendment, religious entities are permitted to make employment decisions about their ministers as they see fit.
Executive Order 11246 governs only federal contractors and federally-assisted construction contractors and subcontractors who do over $10,000 in Government business in one year. It does not affect grants and President Obama’s Executive Order does not impact the administration of federal grants. The Order is administered and enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). As part of these duties, OFCCP conducts compliance reviews, receives complaints from individuals who believe they have been discriminated against, and provides technical assistance to contractors regarding their contractual obligations. More information can be found at www.dol.gov/ofccp.
Executive Order 11478, issued by President Nixon, bars discrimination against federal employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age, and was amended by Executive Order 13087, issued by President Clinton, to include sexual orientation.
President Obama’s Executive Order will add gender identity to the list of protected categories. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other federal agencies already apply Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect federal employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity as a form of sex discrimination. The President believes it is important to explicitly prohibit – in both Executive Action and in legislation – discrimination on the basis of gender identity.