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An Obama executive order will soon protect more LGBT workers

US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez speaks at a press conference.
US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez speaks at a press conference.
Andrew Burton / Getty Images News
  1. An executive order protecting LGBT employees of federal contractors — and job applicants — from workplace discrimination will take effect on April 6, 2015, the US Department of Labor announced on December 3.
  2. The new rule prohibits employers with federal contracts from firing, refusing to hire, or otherwise discriminating against a worker based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  3. The rule won't include sweeping religious exemptions for LGBT workers.
  4. The order essentially expands already existing nondiscrimination rules for federal contractors, who already can't discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Why President Barack Obama is doing this now

Obama

President Barack Obama travels to Connecticut. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images News)

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would have instituted workplace protections for the majority of LGBT workers, stalled in Congress. Without a federal law, President Barack Obama is trying to do anything he can to protect these workers — but he's limited in what he can enforce through the executive branch. In this case, he's limited to protecting federal employees and the workers of federal contractors.

Along with this new rule, Obama also signed an order protecting transgender federal employees. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual federal employees were already protected under an order signed by former President Bill Clinton.

LGBT applicants are less likely to get a call back from some federal contractors

LGBT applicants exxonmobil

(Freedom to Work and the Equal Rights Center)

A previous study from Freedom to Work and the Equal Rights Center found better qualified LGBT applicants are 23 percent less likely to get a call back from some federal contractors than applicants who don't openly identify as LGBT.

The study sent a pair of fictitious but similar resumes to 100 jobs across eight federal contractors: ExxonMobil, AmerisourceBergen, the Babcock and Wilcox Company, Fluor, General Electric, L-3 Communications, Supreme Group, and URS. Despite the stronger qualifications, LGBT applicants were much less likely to get called back.

Some contractors could lose millions of federal dollars if they don't follow the rule

ExxonMobil

A sign for an ExxonMobil gas station. (David McNew / Getty Images News)

Huge contractors like ExxonMobil currently hold millions of dollars in contracts with the federal government. If they don't follow the new rule, those contracts will be placed at risk.

"Today's Labor Department regulations start a 120-day countdown clock for ExxonMobil, the most anti-gay corporation in America, to completely reverse their anti-LGBT workplace policies or face losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts next year," said Tico Almeida, founder and president of Freedom to Work, in an emailed statement. "While our litigation against Exxon is currently before the Illinois Human Rights Department, the oil giants failure to change their policies opens them put to new legal complaints based on President Obama’s latest executive order."

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