Our guest blogger is Crosby Burns, special assistant for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at American Progress.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) implemented a new policy that “strongly encourages” companies that contract with the agency to implement and enforce comprehensive nondiscrimination policies on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. While this policy change is not mandatory, it sends a strong signal to existing and prospective USAID contractors to adopt workplace protections that would shield the LGBT workforce from employment discrimination. This administrative move comes at a time when the LGBT population continues to face high rates of discrimination at all levels of employment.
USAID is likely the first agency to encourage federal contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies, building on existing regulations that require nearly all federal contractors (not just USAID contractors) and subcontractors to have employment nondiscrimination policies that include race, religion, color, sex, and national origin. Sexual orientation and gender identity are currently absent from this list of requirements — and should not be.
Fortunately, American voters and businesses support these protections. Earlier this year, a CAP poll found that 73 percent of likely 2012 voters would extend federal employment protections to the LGBT workforce, including 74 percent of Independents, and 66 percent of Republicans. The same poll concluded that 63 percent of small businesses back the effort and the overwhelming majority report that the cost of compliance is minimal. As a result, 89 percent of Fortune 500 companies have already adopted policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 43 percent protect their workers on the basis of gender identity.
In this economy, nobody should be forced out of a job for non-work related factors such as sexual orientation and gender identity. Policy changes that seek to protect LGBT employees are no longer just a civil rights concern, but should also be included in any pro-jobs legislative agenda.