Originally published on Advocate.com April 29 2011 6:45 AM ET
The U.S. Department of Labor has added gender identity as a protected class in its internal equal opportunity policies.
In the Dept. of Labor's equal opportunity policy, gender identity is listed under sex discrimination; pregnancy status has also been added as a protected category, and applies to hiring, disciplinary action, and promotion for agency employees.
In January 2010, the Obama administration's Office of Personnel Management — headed by John Berry, the highest-ranking openly gay official in the administration — began listing gender identity as a protected class under federal equal opportunity policies. The policy does not affect state or local government workers, however, nor does it protect private sector workers.
"With this change, the federal government is doing what smart employers in the private sector have been doing for years,” National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey said in a statement. “They know that in order to attract the best talent they need to show that diversity is important to their companies.”
The Department of Labor press release:
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor today announced its full commitment to implementing equal employment opportunity policies for all department employees and applicants. The policies ensure equal protections for all employees and applicants regardless of race; color; religion; national origin; sex, including pregnancy and gender identity; age; disability, whether physical or mental; genetic information; status as a parent; sexual orientation; or other non-merit factor. New, robust statements signed by Secretary Solis include updated policies on prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender identity and pregnancy.
Secretary Solis strongly supports fair equal employment opportunity policies, and creating diversity and fairness in the workplace.
“I am expressing my personal commitment to ensure that the U.S. Department of Labor is a model workplace, free from unlawful discrimination and harassment, which fosters a work environment that fully utilizes the capabilities of every employee,” said Secretary Solis. “It is my goal that we achieve and maintain a high-quality, diverse workforce at all organizational levels throughout the department.”
The Labor Department is required to issue annual written policy statements expressing the secretary’s commitment to equal employment opportunity and a workplace free of discriminatory harassment, pursuant to 29 Code of Federal Regulations Part 1614, Federal Sector Equal Employment Opportunity, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Management Directive 715. The EEOC’s directive identifies minimum requirements for the policy statements.
The statements issued by Secretary Solis articulate stronger protections and establish responsibilities to ensure meaningful adherence to equal employment opportunity throughout the department. They have been disseminated to all current employees and will be disseminated to new employees during orientation as well as to employees who are promoted into supervisory ranks.
The department’s policies on equal employment opportunity and harassing conduct in the workplace can be viewed at http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/crc/crc-internal/eeo.htm and http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/crc/crc-internal/Policy-Statement-on-Harassing-Conduct-in-the-Workplace.htm.