By Ilyse Wolens Schuman
The White House announced this week that President Obama will soon issue an Executive Order (EO) banning certain federal contractors from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The order is a means of enacting – if only for federal contractors – a scaled-down version of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), which has stalled in Congress. ENDA would make it unlawful for most private employers to refuse to hire or discriminate against individuals on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Back in November 2013, the Senate passed ENDA with an amendment related to the bill’s exemption for religious entities. The House has not taken up ENDA, nor is it expected to this year.
Not much impact on federal contractors
The Executive Order will not likely have a significant impact on many federal contractors. To date, 21 states and the District of Columbia already have laws banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation; 18 states and D.C. have laws also prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity.
In addition, several cities have enacted local laws/ordinances banning such discrimination. Moreover, a majority of Fortune 500 companies have non-discrimination policies covering sexual orientation and/or gender identity as protected categories.
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The order follows several employment-related initiatives enacted at the Executive level in recent months. In February 2014, the President issued an E.O. setting the minimum wage of certain federal contractors to $10.10 per hour starting January 1, 2015. One month later, the White House issued a memorandum directing the U.S. Department of Labor to revise its “white collar” overtime exemption regulations.
Another step in the “year of action”
On April 8, 2014, the President signed an Executive Order — Non-Retaliation for Disclosure of Compensation Information – making it unlawful for contractors to retaliate against employees who disclose their pay information. The same day, President Obama issued a memorandum – Advancing Pay Equality Through Compensation Data Collection – directing the Department of Labor to issue regulations within 120 days that will require federal contractors and subcontractors to submit to the DOL summary data on the compensation paid their employees, including data by sex and race.
President Obama had stated that if Congress does not move on various pieces of legislation, he would use his Executive powers to advance certain aims. The most recent Executive Order is considered yet another step in this “year of action.”
This was originally published on Littler Mendelson’s Workplace Policy Update blog. © 2014 Littler Mendelson. All Rights Reserved. Littler®, Employment & Labor Law Solutions Worldwide® and ASAP® are registered trademarks of Littler Mendelson, P.C.