Weeks after he announced he would sign an executive order banning LGBT discrimination by federal contractors, President Obama this week unveiled plans to issue another executive order that will protect federal employees from discrimination based on gender identity.
The announcement was made during a Monday-evening Pride gathering at the White House.
A former executive order from President Clinton banned discrimination in federal employment based on sexual orientation but no order had previously been issued regarding gender identity. There remains no federal law banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and more than half of the states, including Pennsylvania, lack such protections.
“The majority of Fortune 500 companies already have nondiscrimination policies because it’s the right thing to do and because many say it helps to retain and attract the best talent,” Obama said Monday. “And I agree. So if Congress won’t act, I will.”
The new executive order would prevent an individual’s actual or perceived gender identity from factoring into decisions on hiring, firing and promotions within the federal government.
National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling was on hand when Obama made the announcement.
She said Obama’s action “stands to protect countless numbers of transgender federal employees who have, for too long, had to hide who they are at work. Though this administration has interpreted existing law to cover transgender federal employees, updating the language of this executive order makes 100-percent clear that transgender federal employees must be treated equally at work.”
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin praised Obama’s leadership on the issue.
“President Obama proved yet again why he will be remembered as the most pro-LGBT president in history,” Griffin said. “Each and every American worker should be judged based on the work they do and never because of a fundamental aspect of who they are — like their gender identity. And the federal government, like employers across America, is best served by ensuring every qualified individual is able to serve without fear of discrimination.”
Obama did not announce a timeline for the order but confirmed his staff is drafting the other recent federal-contractor order.
Also this week, the Department of Labor clarified that discrimination against transgender people is illegal sex discrimination.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found in 2012 that discrimination based on an individual’s transgender status qualifies as discrimination based on sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. But the Department of Labor had not, until now, announced whether it would apply the decision to cases that fall under the current executive order banning discrimination by federal contractors.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Civil Rights Center is issuing guidance confirming that federal workers who identify as transgender are protected from discrimination under Title VII.