WASHINGTON, DC -- Congressman Mike Michaud has announced that he will help lead an effort to urge President Obama to take action to prohibit workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. Michaud and several of his colleagues have begun circulating a letter for signature by members of Congress urging the President to issue an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
"In the absence of Congressional action, the President should follow the example of strong anti-discrimination laws in Maine and other states to ensure that no one in the federal workplace is discriminated against because of who they are or who they love." said Michaud. "Executive action by the President would be a significant first step, but the House still needs to act to ensure workplace protections are available to all Americans. I'll continue to work with my colleagues to push for a vote on the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act."
Maine already has strong protections for LGBT citizens. In 2005, Maine voters upheld a law passed by the legislature prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression with regard to employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations. In November, the U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit employers from discriminating against an individual based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Michaud is a Co-Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, which is circulating the letter. The caucus consists of over 100 bipartisan members of Congress, and provides leadership on public policy and legislation impacting LGBT individuals and families. The caucus is led by the openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members of the House of Representatives, and co-chaired by straight allies with a strong commitment to the LGBT community.
This week, Michaud and his colleagues will also send a letter to Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez requesting a status update on the Department's efforts to ensure equal workplace protection of LGBT individuals. The text of both letters are attached.
Letter to President Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We are writing to urge you to fulfill the promise in your State of the Union address to make this a "year of action" and build upon the momentum of 2013 by signing an executive order banning federal contractors from engaging in employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. As you have said before, "now is the time to end this kind of discrimination, not enable it."
As we continue to work towards final passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with strong bipartisan support, we urge you to take action now to protection millions of workers across the country from the threat of discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love. We are committed to doing all that we can in Congress to get ENDA to your desk this year; however, there is no reason you cannot immediately act by taking this important step. This executive order would provide LGBT people with another avenue in the federal government they could turn to if they were the victim of employment discrimination by a federal contractor. When combined with ENDA, these non-discrimination protections would parallel those that have been in place for decades on the basis of race, sex and religion.
An executive order covering LGBT employees would be in line with a bipartisan, decades-long commitment to eradicating taxpayer-funded discrimination in the workplace. In 1941, President Roosevelt prohibited discrimination in defense contracts on the bases of race, creed, color, or national origin. In subsequent executive orders, Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson expanded these protections to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to discriminate.
In addition, most of the largest government contractors -- companies like Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin -- have LGBT non-discrimination policies in place. They adopted them because business leaders recognize that discrimination is bad for the bottom line.
Finally, time is of the essence. Even with an executive order in place, full implementation of these protections will require regulations to be developed and finalized, a process that will take many months, if not longer, to fully put in place.
Issuing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT workers in federal contracts would build on the significant progress for LGBT rights made during your time as President and would further your legacy as a champion for LGBT equality. We urge you to act now to prevent irrational, taxpayer-funded workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans.
Letter to Labor Secretary Perez
Dear Secretary Perez,
Over the past five years there has been significant progress to ensure equal protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and families under the law. The federal government and agencies, including the U.S. Department of Labor (the Department) will continue to play a significant role in these legal advances. Your long career in public service has been dedicated to furthering the cause of civil rights and ending harmful discrimination, and we look forward to your continued work in this area as the U.S. Secretary of Labor.
As you are aware, the Department plays an important role in the development and protection of the United States workforce. Early in President Obama's first term the Department found the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) recognized the important role of parents and the need for workplace policies to respect all families. The Department also took steps to better understand access to employer provided benefits for same-sex spouses, such as health insurance, by including relevant questions on the National Compensation Survey. Internally, the Department recognized the value of a diverse workforce and the contributions of its LGBT employees through LGBT Pride month celebrations.
Yet, there is more that the Department can do to alleviate the high rates of unemployment and discrimination faced by LGBT workers around the country. The Department has tools at its disposal to address these barriers impacting the ability of LGBT people to thrive in the American economy. As Members of Congress working towards full equality for LGBT individuals and families, we would like to know more about what the Department is doing for LGBT workers generally and in the below program areas.
U.S. Department of Labor's implementation of U.S. v. Windsor, including potential revisions to expand access to FMLA leave regardless of state of residence.
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs' enforcement of existing Executive Orders and how LGBT people can be better covered;
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs' implementation and accompanying guidance for Macy v. Holder;
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs' review and potential revision of sex discrimination provisions under Executive Order 11246;
Employment and Training Administration's inclusion of, and guidance on, LGBT and gender non-conforming youth in Job Corps programs;
Employment and Training Administration's inclusion of LGBT and gender non-conforming workers in One Stop Center programs;
Bureau of Labor Statistics' work to better integrate sexual orientation and gender identity into its data collection efforts; and
Veterans Employment Training Services inclusion of LGBT veterans in its programs and policies.
Despite the efforts of the Department, state and local governments, and advocates around the country, LGBT workers and families remain at a distinct disadvantage across the country, especially those living in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. Before the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v. Windsor, the federal government, including the Department of Labor, could not recognize legally married same-sex couples as "married" for purposes of federal benefits and protections. Whether it was fully utilizing FMLA leave to care for a spouse or being forced to pay additional taxes on employer-provided health insurance for a spouse, same-sex couples were specifically excluded under federal law.
Legal protections for LGBT workers on the bases of sexual orientation or gender identity are inconsistent and vary from state to state. Some progress has been made on this front. In November 2013 the U.S. Senate approved a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to protect LGBT workers across the country. The Obama administration has also taken concrete steps towards increasing access to protection from discrimination on the job. In 2012, in a precedent setting case the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that gender identity is a protected category under existing federal civil rights protections covering sex in the case Macy v. Holder.
Due in large part to systemic discrimination in education, housing, and employment, LGBT people are at an increased risk for poverty throughout the lifetime. Employment protections are a vital step towards ending this discrimination and increasing economic opportunity and stability for LGBT workers and their families.
We commend the Department of Labor's leadership in the past on LGBT work-related issues. At the same time, we are aware that the need for better inclusion of LGBT individuals in many of the above programs and policies has been brought to the attention of the Department and we are eager to hear from you on where these changes stand.