President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, the White House announced Monday.
Last year the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would make it illegal under federal law to discriminate in the workplace based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, failed in Congress. Therefore, to date, no federal law bans such workplace discrimination. President Obama's unilateral action will not extend the discrimination protection to all Americans. Instead, the proposed executive order will create obligations for federal contractors. After the order's effective date, federal contractors should review their policies and procedures to determine whether they have an unintended discriminatory effect on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees. After the effective date, Federal Contractors should also consider whether discriminatory patterns exist before taking an adverse action against LGBT employees.
President Obama has used executive orders before, for example when he took unilateral action to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors. The White House provided no date on which the order is expected to be signed.