While there is no federal law to protect all employees from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the workplace, The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) enforces Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
OFCCP protects the rights of employees and job applicants of companies doing business with the Federal Government. This includes employees at banks, information technology firms, meat packing plants, retail stores, manufacturing plants, accounting firms, and construction companies, among others.
“Sexual orientation” refers to an individual’s physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to people of the same and/or opposite gender. Examples of sexual orientations include straight (or heterosexual), lesbian, gay, and bisexual.
The term “gender identity” refers to one’s internal sense of one’s own gender. It may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to a person at birth, and may or may not be made visible to others.
What is Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity?
Employment discrimination generally exists where an employer treats you, as an employee or job applicant, less favorably because of your sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination may also exist where an employer’s seemingly fair policies or procedures have a significant negative impact on employees or job applicants because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
You have the right to work in an environment free of discrimination, including harassment, based on your sexual orientation or gender identity. You cannot be harassed, demoted, terminated, paid less, denied employment, or otherwise treated less favorably because of your sexual orientation or gender identity. Among other things, contractors CANNOT:
- Ask employees or job applicants for any information or identification that they do not ask for from all other employees or job applicants, including medical information related to their gender identity;
- Refuse employees and job applicants the ability to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity;
- Harass employees and job applicants because of their sexual orientation or gender identity;
- Deny lawfully married same-sex spouses the same benefits they provide to opposites ex- spouses; or
- Deny same-sex partners in civil unions or domestic partnerships the same benefits they provide to heterosexual partners in such relationships.
Filing a Complaint
Employees can file a complaint with OFCCP if he or she thinks they have been discriminated against at work or when applying for work. You do not need to know with certainty that your employer is a federal contractor or subcontractor in order to file a complaint.
Employers cannot fire, demote, or treat an employee less favorably because a complaint is filed. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against someone for filing a complaint or participating in an investigation. OFCCP’s regulations protect from harassment, intimidation, threats, coercion, or retaliation for asserting his or her rights.
Source: The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs: www.dol.gov