Joel Dillard & Associates

Representing Working People

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination in Federal Civilian Employment

Four agencies charged with enforcing federal personnel laws just issued a joint guide to sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination law in the federal workplace. The federal government is really taking the lead on this issue. As the guide states:

As the nation's largest employer, the Federal Government should set an example for other employers that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is not acceptable. All federal workers - including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals - should be able to perform their jobs free from any unlawful discrimination.

What this means, in practice, is that federal employees will benefit from a more aggressive interpretation of the legal protections than working people in the private sector. Unfortunatly, the guide offers little actual guidance on the substance of these protections, but what it does offer is very encouraging.

I think the guide is most useful - for all employees, not just LGBTQ - as a basic outline of SOME of the truly byzantine procedures for enforcing civil service laws. In that respect, it is required reading for federal employees, and a good refresher or introduction for advocates. Click here to read.

On the substance, the guide states forthrightly that Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination protects persons who have been discriminated against based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This reflects the position of the EEOC, but the courts have not yet universally accepted this view. Fortunately for federal employees, the Office of Federal Operations at the EEOC can probably be relied on to force agencies to accept the executive branch's official view. In my next post, I'll consider the state of the law on these questions in the private sector.


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