On July 21, President Obama signed an Executive Order adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories included in Executive Order 11246, originally issued by President Johnson in 1965. E.O. 11246 now prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Executive Order retains the exemption added by President George W. Bush for religiously affiliated contractors, permitting them to favor individuals of a particular religion when making employment decisions.
E.O. 11246 applies to federal contractors and federally-assisted construction contractors and subcontractors who do over $10,000 in Government business in one year. Contractors with over $50,000 in annual federal contracts, and at least fifty (50) employees, are obligated to maintain an active Affirmative Action Program (AAP) and to commit to extensive diversity initiatives, analyses and obligations. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is tasked with enforcing the E.O. According to the White House, most federal contractors already have non-discrimination policies in place that include sexual orientation and gender identity. Those federal contractors who do not have such policies in place, and companies who are considering becoming federal contractors, should review their non-discrimination policies and employee training to ensure compliance with E.O. 11246.
You may read the Executive Order amending E.O. 11246 here and the White House Fact Sheet on the Executive Order here.