As the spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identities become more widely accepted, company executives have a new responsibility to ensure that all of their employees are treated fairly and respectfully in the workplace. In order to comply with regulations and prevent discrimination, employers must be armed with the most up-to-date information and HR solutions to cover all protected parties.
The latest ruling
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a new rule that extends workplace protections to individuals of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
"Americans believe in fairness and opportunity," Thomas Perez, the U.S. Secretary of Labor, said in a press release. "No one should live in fear of being fired or passed over or discriminated against at work simply because of who they love. Laws prohibiting workplace discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity are long overdue, and we're taking a big step forward today to fix that."
The "big step forward" Perez refers to is Executive Order 13672, which President Barack Obama signed on July 21, 2014, to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of protected Equal Opportunity classes under Executive Order 11246. The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced the order, known as the Final Rule, on December 3, 2014, and declared that it will take effect 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
The public response
This is the first time in history that the federal government has taken action to promote workplace equality for the LGBT community within the private sector. It comes at a time when the American public seems to be ready for change. A 2014 poll conducted through the Human Rights Campaign found that 63 percent of voters favored a federal regulation protecting LGBT workers from employment discrimination.
Although there was no prior federal law prohibiting LGBT discrimination at work, states and companies across the country already have their own rules in effect. According to a White House press release, the District of Columbia and 18 other states have laws stating that LGBT workers can't be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
What is expected of employers?
In order to help businesses comply with the new regulations, the OFCCP stated that it will host webinars, workshops and forums to talk employers through the amended requirements. Additionally, it will publish fact sheets and other printed materials for distribution. Company executives should use this information to amend their employee handbooks, company policies, job postings and other internal and external-facing documents to ensure that everyone involved understands the new regulation.