In a letter addressed to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, 19 Democrats from the House of Representatives inquired about the extent to which the Department of Labor (DOL) plans to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in future equal employment initiatives. The content of the letter can be viewed here.
The letter, dated March 5, commended DOL on previous efforts to comprehend struggles faced by LGBT employees in obtaining employer benefits and family leave, but expressed that there is more work to be done in this area. The Representatives presented to DOL a list of 8 potential means of improving unemployment and discrimination faced by LGBT individuals.
Of particular interest, the letter inquired about DOL’s plans to utilize OFCCP enforcement to provide protection to LGBT employees under existing Executive Orders as well as potentially revising the sex discrimination provisions of EO 11246. The Representatives also asked about plans to incorporate sexual orientation and gender identity into the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data collection.
The letter asked whether DOL plans to expand FMLA leave for LBGT employees, citing U.S. v. Windsor (2013), in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Additionally, the House Democrats requested guidance related to Macy v. Holder (2012), a case involving discrimination against a transgender federal employee that was classified as sex discrimination under Title VII.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. Based on the failure of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to pass through Congress, it seems clear that legislative avenues for advancing LGBT employment rights are closed for now. This letter seems to signal intent to use alternative methods within the Executive Branch to accomplish that agenda. The Obama Administration has long-supported passage of ENDA, but has indicated it does not want to use the Executive Order to advance LGBT rights because that would only apply to federal contractors.
by Rachel Gabbard, M.A., HR Analyst and Dave Sharrer, M.S., Associate Consultant, DCI Consulting Group