Final LGBT Workplace Protection Rule Announced

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on December 3 announced a final rule to protect LGBT federal contractors, which will implement an executive order signed by President Obama in July. The rule will go into effect 120 days from Friday, December 6, when it was published in the Federal Register.

“Americans believe in fairness and opportunity. No one should live in fear of being fired or passed over or discriminated against at work simply because of who they are or who they love,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, in a statement announcing the rule. “Laws prohibiting workplace discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity are long overdue, and we’re taking a big step forward today to fix that.”

President Obama signed the order in the absence of federal legislation barring workplace discrimination, which was passed in the Senate in November 2013 but never taken up in the House. That bill – the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) – was first introduced two decades ago in the 103rd Congress, and has been re-introduced nearly every Congress since.

Without ENDA, only 18 states plus the District of Columbia prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and three other states prohibit it on the basis of sexual orientation only.

The same day the final rule was announced, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D. Fla., introduced ENDA on behalf of Rep. Jared Polis, D. Colo., as an amendment to the annual defense spending bill, though it was defeated 7-3 in the House Rules Committee.

While Wednesday’s final rule affects LGBT federal contractors, another Obama executive order signed in July protects transgender federal employees. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual federal employees are already protected under an order signed by former President Clinton.