EEOC Ruling on Gender Identity-Discrimination Likely to Impact Federal Contractors

Our guest blogger is Crosby Burns, Research Associate for LGBT Progress.

General Electric is one of the top government contractors that does not currently offer gender identity protections.

While President Obama has decided to not issue an LGBT nondiscrimination executive order for federal contractors at this time, legal scholars agree that a recent EEOC ruling will have a significant impact on existing nondiscrimination rules and regulations for federal contractors.

Last week, the EEOC issued a watershed ruling giving transgender individuals sorely needed federal protections against workplace discrimination. According to the ruling, employers who discriminate against employees or job applicants on the basis of gender identity can now be found in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—specifically its prohibition of sex discrimination in employment.

A report released today by the Williams Institute – a public policy think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles – demonstrates that this ruling has significant implications for federal contractors. Executive Order 11246 (EO 11246) already prohibits government contractors from prohibiting on the basis of sex (in addition to race, color, religion, and national origin). According to Williams, the Department of Labor’s Office of Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), which monitors contractor compliance with EO 11246, will similarly prohibit discrimination against transgender employees working for federal contractors following the EEOC’s decision:

It is the OFCCP’s policy and practice to interpret EO 11246’s non-discrimination requirements to be the same as Title VII’s requirements. This policy and practice indicates that the OFCCP will likely treat complaints of gender identity discrimination filed under EO 11246 as actionable complaints of sex discrimination, consistent with the EEOC’s recent Title VII decision.

Williams’ report goes on to say that going forward OFCCP will need to address how it will implement EEOC’s ruling in its forthcoming rulemaking as it pertains to sex discrimination. Doing so will significantly help combat discrimination against transgender workers, who continue to face astonishingly high rates of discrimination on the job.