Gay and transgender federal employees across the country will now find themselves protected from being discriminated against at work on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identification. California already has protections in place for gay and transgender employees under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, but California was only one of 18 states in the country to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation prior to Obama’s action. The rule also extends to companies holding federal contracts.
Religious organizations had been putting pressure on the president to create an exemption in the law for religious groups. While Obama decided to allow a provision that permits religious organizations to hire and fire based on religious identity, religious groups will not get an exemption from the laws prohibiting employers from considering sexual orientation or gender identity. The order was condemned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for failing to include the exception that was originally provided for in the Senate bill.
Prior to the order, the majority of the country’s Fortune 500 companies and more than 200 local governments already had a ban in place against sexual orientation discrimination. The new law will affect approximately 24,000 companies with 28 million workers that enter into federal contracts.
The Williams Institute at UCLA Law School estimates that the total number of people who would be receiving discrimination protection for the first time would be about 14 million workers, meaning that half of the affected workers were among those who already had protections in place previously. California employees who feel that they are being discriminated against or who feel that they were wrongfully terminated based on sexual orientation or gender identity may want to speak with a lawyer about how they may take action against their employer.
Source: Fair Employment and Housing Act
Source: KFMB, “Gay, transgender workers gain US bias protection”, Nedra Pickler, July 21, 2014