White House officials reported today that President Obama intends to sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The order would protect up to 16 million employees working for employers with federal contracts.
Last year, the Senate passed a more expansive LGBT non-discrimination law that would apply to most private employees, but the bill has stalled in the House and there has been no indication from House leadership that they will vote on the measure this year.
This announcement is part of a broader effort by President Obama to use executive actions to protect employees where Congress has failed to act. Earlier this year, President Obama signed executive orders that increased the minimum wage for workers under new federal contracts to $10.10 an hour and expanded overtime eligibility for federal contractors.
The White House did not release the text of the proposed executive order and has not announced when President Obama will sign the order. While we await the order, federal contractor employers should consider reviewing their non-discrimination and non-retaliation policies to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity are explicitly covered.