Congress has not acted to explicitly outlaw discrimination against federal workers or applicants on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identification. Texas readers of this blog may recall that is something the Merit Systems Protection Board has recommended.
As we posted back in May of last year, MSPB officials indicated at the time that such a change would take the matter out of the realm of an interpretation of existing anti-discrimination law by federal agencies and remove any ambiguity about the issue that might exist in the federal workplace.
The absence of such action by lawmakers doesn’t mean that the topic has dropped off the radar. Indeed, if anything, there has been a stepped up effort on the part of agencies in the administration to reinforce that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is not tolerated.
One indication of that came in early June. That’s when four major agencies with oversight roles in ensuring federal workplace fairness reissued a guide laying out the rights, responsibilities and processes to be followed by those in the federal workplace to ensure against discriminatory practices.
The guide had been first issued more than 10 years ago. Officials with the Office of Personnel Management, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Office of Special Counsel and MSPB said the revised document is intended to reflect, to the extent possible, the many changes that have occurred in existing law since the last publication.
And last month, the EEOC issued a broader finding declaring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal under federal law. The decision applies to both private and government sectors.
To be clear, these moves serve in the cause of protecting federal workers’ rights, but they remain interpretations of law that could be subject to court challenge. Those who feel their rights have been violated should consult an attorney for help.