Agencies Release Guide on Preventing LGBT Discrimination

Revisions reflect recent decisions on sexual orientation and gender identity protection

By Dana Wilkie Jun 5, 2015

As the gender transition of former Olympian Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner dominates the news and ignites discussion about transgender issues, four federal agencies have released a new guide on the rights available to workers and applicants who allege discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The guide, which until now hadn’t been revised for more than a decade, reflects major developments in anti-discrimination law. It’s designed to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees make educated decisions about how to pursue claims when they believe they’ve been victims of employment discrimination.

The agencies collaborating on the guide were the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

“We need all of our employees to be focused on making the most of their skills and their ingenuity, rather than worrying about losing their job or not getting promoted due to discrimination,” said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta. “This guide is an important resource for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of our federal family.”

“Reissuing this guide is critical, given the developments that have occurred in this area over the last 10 years,” said EEOC chairwoman Jenny Yang. “It illustrates, in plain terms, the breadth of protections available to victims of LGBT discrimination in federal employment and should serve as an invaluable resource to all federal employees.”

The guide is called “Addressing Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination in Federal Civilian Employment: A Guide to Employment Rights, Protections, and Responsibilities.”

In a press release, MSPB chairwoman Susan Tsui Grundmann said that her board’s research indicates that federal employees and supervisors struggle with confusion about “the state of protections from sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.”

The guide describes the rights of federal workers, as well as their agencies’ responsibilities, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, and other agency and union procedures. It also includes a table showing the differences between procedures available at the EEOC and OSC.

The new guide reflects major federal decisions that have expanded protections under civil service laws, which have banned sexual orientation discrimination since 1980. In August 2014, for instance, the OSC found that these same laws ban gender identity discrimination, resulting from a case of a transgender woman who was unlawfully harassed by agency officials. The EEOC has also issued relatively recent decisions holding that discrimination based on gender identity is illegal, and that sexual orientation discrimination based on gender stereotypes is also unlawful.

Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


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