Department of Labor issues rule banning LGBT discrimination in federal workplace

New rule extends protections against discrimination to LGBT community.

The Department of Labor recently announced a final rule prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the federal contracting workforce. The announcement, made on December 3, 2014, was an implementation of a rule signed earlier in the year by the president.

The law highlights a larger movement to extend protections to cover a more inclusive class of workers in recent years. According to the U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, workers should not "live in fear of being fired or passed over or discriminated against at work simply because of who they are or who they love." The Secretary went on to explain that these laws extending protection to LGBT workers are long overdue.

A similar announcement was made by the Department of Justice. Attorney General Eric Holder announced in a memo that the definition of "sex discrimination" prohibited under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is expanded to include discrimination based on gender identity, according to a recent report by MSNBC. The move extends federal protections to those employed by state and public employers.

More on the rule

The rule, Executive Order 13672, was signed on July 21, 2014 by President Obama. It is part of a larger executive order designed to protect transgender federal employees from discriminatory practices within the workplace. The rule extends a previous order protecting federal workers from sexual orientation discrimination signed by President Bill Clinton.

LGBT advocates encouraged President Obama to move forward with an amendment as opposed to a separate standard. In fact, the order specifically revises the current language from protections from discrimination based on "sex or national origin," to "sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin." This addition as opposed to use of a separate standard is an important distinction as it puts discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity on "equal footing" with discrimination based on race, color or religion.

Remedies available for victims of discrimination

Although many states already offer protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees against discrimination this was the first federal action to ensure protection in the private sector. Since the rules and regulations around these protections can be complex, moving forward with a suit is often a long and arduous process. However, remedies are available for those who are the victims of these practices. Remedies can include reinstatement to a former or comparable position, back pay and, in some cases, compensatory damages.

Due to the complex nature of these claims, those who are victimized by discriminatory practices based on their sexual orientation or gender identity are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced federal employment discrimination attorney. This legal professional will work to better ensure your rights and any potential remedies are protected.

Keywords: discrimination