Today, July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order making it illegal for federal contractors to discriminate against employees and applicants on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, which will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees from such discrimination. Currently, there is no federal law in place that provides protection from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. President Obama's Order amends Executive Order 11246, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories covering federal contractors.
This announcement means that any recipient of federal contracts will be required to have Equal Employment Opportunity policies and/or procedures in place to protect employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In addition to the new protections for federal contractors, federal employees, who are already protected on the basis of sexual orientation, will be protected from gender identity discrimination, which has not been previously protected.
Employers should review all current company policies and procedures, which will likely require an update to employee handbooks, application materials and discrimination policies to ensure compliance with revised Executive Order 11246.