U.S. Labor issues anti-discrimination rule

Washington • The Labor Department issued a rule Wednesday to protect employees of federal contractors from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The rule would carry out terms of a workplace anti-discrimination law signed by President Barack Obama on July 21.

“Americans believe in fairness and opportunity. No one should live in fear of being fired or passed over or discriminated against at work simply because of who they are or who they love,” Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in announcing the rule. “Laws prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are long overdue, and we’re taking a big step forward today to fix that.”

The final rule issued Wednesday will become effective 120 days after its publication in the Federal Register and will apply to workers of all federal contractors from that date forward.

Eighteen states, the District of Columbia and many small and large businesses already offer such workplace anti-discrimination protections.

“We are building on the work of presidents and members of Congress from both parties who have expanded opportunities for America’s workers,” said Patricia A. Shiu, who will oversee enforcement of the new requirements as director of the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, said his organization is “pleased that the president’s executive order is one step closer to implementation. We look forward to final regulations that will ensure that employees of federal contractors are protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and general identity.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., a sponsor of the anti-discrimination law, called the new Labor Department rule “an important step forward toward an America where discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity will no longer be tolerated.”