New Executive Order Prohibiting Federal Government Contractors from Discriminating Based Upon Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

On July 21, 2014, President Obama signed Executive Order (“EO”) 13672, designed to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against employees based upon sexual orientation and gender identity and broadly prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity across all federal employment. EO 13672 amends two prior executive orders: EO 11246, issued by President Lyndon Johnson to prohibit contractors from discriminating against employees or applicants based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; and EO 11478, issued by President Richard Nixon to bar discrimination against federal employees on the same bases. EO 11478 was most recently amended by President Clinton through EO 13087, which included sexual orientation in the list of protected classes for federal employees.

Through EO 13672, federal contractors and federally-assisted construction contractors and subcontractors doing over $10,000 in Government business in any one year are now prohibited from discriminating against an employee or applicant based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in addition to the established list of protected classes. Importantly, religious organizations are not exempt from discriminating against the classes created by EO 13672, and therefore are prohibited from discriminating against employees or applicants based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and other federal agencies already consider discrimination against gender identity to be sex discrimination, EO 13672 officially expands the protections provided in EO 11478 by adding gender identity to the list of classes that are protected from discrimination in federal employment.

EO 13672 became effective on July 21, 2014. The Department of Labor (“DOL”) has 90 days to prepare regulations implementing the provision of EO 13672 applying to federal contractors. This provision will apply to contracts entered into on or after the effective date of the rules promulgated by the DOL.