The White House has announced that President Obama plans to sign an Executive Order banning federal contractors from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. LGBT organizations have sought such protections for all workers for years; however, recent attempts to codify such protections into federal law have been difficult to pass through Congress. In November of 2013, the senate passed the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (EDNA) which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but since being passed in the Senate, the bill lost momentum and died in the House. Moreover, while twenty-one states, including California, Illinois, and Colorado prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation, the remaining 29 states have not passed similar laws.
In response to President Obama’s inability to get such employment protections for LGBT workers passed through Congress, this Executive Order would provide protections for approximately 11 million workers who do not receive such protection through current state laws. Ultimately, the Executive Order would only apply to private firms or corporations that are federal contractors. Nonetheless, despite the current limited scope of the Executive Order, this may be the momentum President Obama needs to pressure the House to pass similar protections for all private and public employees into federal law.
Employers would be well-served to closely monitor their state and municipal laws regarding discrimination of employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As you may know through reading our newsletter, while the Missouri legislature has not passed any such laws protecting LGBT workers, many municipalities, such as St. Louis City and County, Kansas City, University City, Clayton, Kirkwood, Olivette, and Columbia all have ordinances prohibiting discrimination of LGBT workers. Therefore, despite there being no federal or state law prohibiting the discrimination of LGBT workers, many municipalities have taken it upon themselves to bestow such protections.
McMahon Berger has over 50 years of experience dealing with nation-wide employment handbook policies and other employment related matters. If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.