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President's order on workplace discrimination deemed "historic"

It's a simple quid pro quo that needs to be recognized in the federal workplace, says U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez: If you get money from the federal government as a contractor doing work on public projects, you need to respect all workers when it comes to hiring practices, decisions to terminate and pay-related matters.

And all workers means precisely that, with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees having the same panoply of worker protections in the workplace that are accorded other workers.

Some readers might reasonably think that such has long been the case, but in fact it hasn't: As noted in a recent media article discussing sexual orientation discrimination, workers from the LGBT demographic continue to be victimized by employers' discriminatory behaviors in many states where adequate legal protections against reprisal do not yet exist.

California is not of the many states that have silently assented to workplace discrimination against LGBT workers through failure to pass relevant legislation rendering it unlawful. In fact, and as we noted in a prior blog post, the state has laws "prohibiting such behavior at the workplace" (please see our post entry dated July 18, 2013).

Although the Obama administration has consistently pushed for stringent anti-gay protections against workers in the federal workplace as well, substantive change has not come through standard legislative channels, with reform measures being routinely blocked.

Such resistance has invoked a singular prerogative from the president, namely, his use of an executive order to enact into law the protections he has long sought.

That order -- signed by the president last June -- finally took legal effect earlier this month, when, on April 8, every federal contractor (an estimated 24,000 companies) became legally bound to extend full workplace protections to LGBT workers.

One prominent gay-rights advocate called the change "historic."

Indeed it is, although no pen stroke can compel erasure of all discrimination that exists in state and federal work environments.

Notwithstanding the efficacy of legal enactments in curbing discriminatory workplace practices and behaviors, discrimination does of course continue to exist and even thrive in some toxic work locales.

When it does, workers who suffer from it can seek legal protection and remedies by securing the assistance of a knowledgeable and proven employment law attorney.

Source: Huffington Post, "It is now illegal for a federal contractor to fire someone for being LGBT," Jennifer Bendery, April 8, 2015