On July 21, President Obama signed two amended executive orders prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees and prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in federal employment. The executive orders aim to ensure that all employees are judged only by their ability to complete required job duties.
The first executive order Obama amended, initially signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, prohibits federal contractors from discriminating based on race, religion, gender or nationality in hiring. Obama added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protections. Officials believe the changes will take effect by early 2015.
The second executive order Obama amended, initially signed by President Richard Nixon in 1969, prohibits discrimination against federal workers based on race, religion, gender, nationality, age, disability, or sexual orientation. Obama added gender identity to the list of protections. The change will take immediate effect.
The order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating affects 24,000 companies designated as federal contractors. These companies have 28 million workers who comprise nearly one-fifth of the U.S. labor force. Most of these companies already offer at least some protection to LGBT employees against such discrimination, but the order will extend this protection to an estimated 14 million additional workers.
Obama held-off signing an anti-discrimination executive order covering federal contractors in the hope that Congress would pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), an anti-LGBT workplace discrimination law. The federal legislation, which would have applied to all workers, not just federal contractors, stalled in Congress after passing in the Senate last year.