Obama To Sign Executive Order To Protect LGBT Employees

President Barack Obama has vowed to sign an executive order, which will protect LGBT employees against discrimination. The order will prevent discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Those protected will include employees of the federal government and their contractors.

Currently, executive orders protect employees from discrimination based on color, national origin, race, religion, and sex. The new executive order will simply extend the protections to include LGBT employees.

The executive order is expected to protect more than 1 million LGBT workers. As reported by Think Progress, up to 90 percent of LGBT employees have experienced workplace inequality based on their lifestyle.

At the state level, there are few laws preventing employer discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Surveys reveal that 90 percent of voters believe state or federal laws already prevent workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Although many companies have zero-tolerance policies, which prevent harassment and bullying, a majority of LGBT employees do not have specific protection.

Although there are few protections provided at the federal and state level, many employers have adopted rules to protect LGBT employees. As reported by the Washington Post, an estimated 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have specific policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

President Obama endorsed a similar measure during his 2008 campaign. However, the order was never drafted. Instead, he endorsed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal to discriminate against employees based on their gender identity and sexual orientation.

The ENDA was passed by the senate in late 2013. However, House Speaker John Boener is adamant that there is “no way” it will pass through the House. Although ENDA is strongly endorsed by a majority of Democrats, it is not without flaws.

Supporters of the ENDA are concerned, as religious organizations would be exempt from the rules. Therefore, LGBT employees working for religious organizations would not have equal protection.

Although Obama’s executive order would protect a large number of LGBT employees, the Williams Institute and the Center for American Progress suggests the impact may be weaker than expected. Some of the largest government contractors, including Boeing, General Dynamics, Nothrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, already have policies in place to protect LGBT employees.

Employees of those companies will not be affected, but those working at Exxon Mobil, may notice a difference. Exxon Mobil employees have petitioned for specific LGBT protections more than 15 times. Each time, the specific protections were denied.

President Obama’s executive order will likely have a strong impact, as LGBT rights are a continued point of controversy. However, for more than one million workers, the protections will make an important difference.

[Images via Catania Today and Williams Institute]

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