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President Obama Signs Executive Order Prohibiting Federal Contractors from Discriminating Against LGBT Employees

July 25, 2014

As anticipated, on July 21 President Obama signed an Executive Order (EO) banning federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees. The new EO amends two existing orders, 11246 and 11478, by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories of protected federal contractor workers. The White House predicts that these changes will impact about 24,000 companies with federal contracts that together employ over 28 million workers – a fifth of the country’s workforce.

Obama’s new EO revises the existing 11478 by formally adding gender identity to the list of protected categories. This change will take place immediately and identifies the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as being responsible for directing and furthering the implementation of the rule.

Additionally, the new EO amends 11246 by adding provisions that prohibit discrimination and require affirmative action on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) will be responsible for these changes and has been given 90 days from the date of the order to prepare regulations for implementation. However, preparation of these regulations will likely take longer than 90 days due to the federal regulatory process which requires public notice and the opportunity to submit comments.

At this time the new EO does not permit for any additional exemptions for religious entities beyond those which were added by President George W. Bush several years ago.

Obama supports legislation that would bar most employers, not just federal contractors, from discriminating against LGBT workers; but since Congress has not acted Obama pursued executive action to protect the portion of the US workforce over which he has some control.