February 6, 2012 at 6:09 am EST | by Chris Johnson
ENDA exec order could protect 16 million workers: report

An executive order requiring federal contractors to have LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies would cover up to 16 million workers, according to a new study.

The report, published Monday by the Williams Institute at the University of California of Los Angeles, discusses the implications of a directive prohibiting federal dollars from going to companies without LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections as well as policy requiring them to provide health insurance to same-sex partners of employees.

M.V. Lee Badgett, the author of the report and the Williams Institute’s research director, said in a statement the study highlights “the powerful impact” of federal policy prohibiting LGBT discrimination and “continued progress already made toward protecting LGBT workers through state law and voluntary corporate policies.”

The study finds state laws or company policies already in place at federal contractors protect 61 percent of employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and 41 percent from discrimination based on gender identity.

But an executive order from President Obama spelling out that companies receiving federal money can’t discriminate against LGBT workers would significantly expand protections, the report finds.

“We estimate that 11 million additional employees would gain protection against sexual orientation discrimination and 16 million employees would be protected against gender identity discrimination,” the report states.

Still, not all of these up to 16 million workers would identify as LGBT. Based on numbers that LGBT people make up 4 percent of the country’s workforce, the report estimates that the number of LGBT people who would gain protections as a result of the directive would be between 400,000 and 600,000 people.

The report also finds that a non-discrimination directive wouldn’t disproportionately affect defense contractors. According to the report, state law or company policy already covers 95 percent of employees at the companies from discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 69 percent of workers are protected based on gender identity.

Additionally, the study says the order wouldn’t place a heavier burden on small businesses because existing non-discrimination policies already equally cover employees in small, medium and large federal contractors — although Fortune 1000 employees have higher rates of coverage.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said the report is important because it shows millions would gain non-discrimination protections “once President Obama puts pen to paper and signs the document that is now sitting in the White House ready to go.”

“With an LGBT fairness record as impressive as Mr. Obama’s, I can’t think of a single legitimate reason he might not sign the order that two of his cabinet agencies have already recommended he sign,” Almeida said.

Multiple sources have told the Blade that the Labor and Justice Departments have cleared an administrative measure that would bar federal dollars from going to companies without LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections and have sent their recommendation to the White House for final approval. The White House hasn’t said one way or the other whether Obama will issue the directive.

The measure is sometimes known as the “ENDA” executive order because it would accomplish the same goals as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that has stalled in Congress that would bar job bias against LGBT people in the public and private workforce. The executive order would only apply to companies doing business with the federal government.

The study also finds an order mandating that contractors provide domestic partner health benefit would have an impact, but come at little cost to companies.

Should the U.S. government require contractors to provide domestic partner benefits, between 14.3 million and 15.3 million more employees would have access to same-sex partner coverage. However, the study estimates between only 40,000 and 136,000 employees would sign up for coverage because not all of these employees are likely to have a same-sex partner, and even those that have them may not elect to receive benefits.

“Given the small number of employees who would take advantage of domestic partnership benefits across the tens of thousands of federal contractors, the ultimate burden on business for providing these benefits would be minimal,” Badgett concluded in a statement.

Findings in the study are based on on 2009 data from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission’s EEO-1 reports, which are required for federal contractors with 50 or more employees that contract for at least $50,000, and for non-contractor employers with 100 or more workers.


Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Thanks for this report, Chris. This is a terrific initiative/ proposed directive. It shows how the Obama Administration, even with a decidedly unfriendly House of Representatives, can positively impact LGBT employees of both large and small businesses– all across the country.

    Owners of businesses– again, whether large or small, having or seeking federal contracts are already well-aware of civil rights/ non-discrimination protections and practices encouraged and mandated by Uncle Sam, no matter the politics of the states in which they they are located. A LGBT-related directive will simply ADD, affirmatively, and rather quietly, to the “civil rights consciousness” of all federal contractors to include their LGBT employees in their non-discriminatory best practices.

    I happen to know that’s especially important in more conservative, “red” states (like Virginia), which have next to no state and local LGBT civil rights protections at all. LGBTs and other minorities are paying attention in the Obama “swing” states, too– and they very much appreciate the president’s proactive stance. Every little bit helps– especially for employees of federal contractors in less-urban locales.

    Let’s hope President Obama issues that executive order!

  • I find it almost unbelievable that this executive order could require federal contractors to provide domestic partner health benefits. The federal government doesn’t provide domestic partner health benefits, and house republicans are spending several million dollars to keep that policy in place.
    What am I missing?

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