On January 20, 2021, the same day as the presidential inauguration, United States President Joseph R. Bidden, Jr., signed an executive order entitled, “Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” The Order directs the heads of all federal government agencies to review all of their existing actions, programs, policies, regulations, orders, and guidance documents with the Attorney General to make sure they comply with the policy of the new anti-discrimination order.
Each federal agency is supposed to complete the review and develop a plan to correct any discriminatory conduct or items that conflict with the policy of the new anti-discrimination order within 100 days of January 20, 2021.
A Washington workplace discrimination attorney can answer your questions about what the Biden administration means for workplace discrimination.
The Policy Behind the Anti-Discrimination Order
The new anti-discrimination executive order begins with the statement that “[e]very person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love.” The policy section of the order references children at school, adults on the job, access to healthcare, and housing.
The order avows that the Biden administration will “prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.” The administration will fully enforce all laws that prohibit illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, including Title VII. The Biden administration holds that Title VII applies to LGBTQ individuals, which is contrary to how the Trump administration interpreted Title VII.
What the Order Could Mean for the Workplace
There was no existing federal order that banned discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Before this executive order, a few states provided protection from LGBTQ discrimination, but nothing mandated that federal statutes had to include a ban on LGBTQ discrimination across multiple sectors of society.
The new order makes it illegal to engage in LGBTQ discrimination in healthcare, housing, education, and the workplace. All governmental and private entities subject to Title VII will have to treat members of the LGBTQ community the same as all other persons.
The Bostock Decision
Before the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, the question of whether Title VII applied to discrimination on the basis of sexual identity or gender identity was in controversy. The Bostock case involved several consolidated cases that all raised the question of whether an employer can fire a worker for being homosexual or transgender.
The Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 that such actions are illegal and violate Title VII. Before reaching the Supreme Court, the lower federal appellate courts had reaching conflicting decisions about the application of Title VII to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
President Biden’s January 20, 2021, executive order makes it clear that the Biden administration agrees with the Supreme Court ruling that such discrimination is illegal.
A Washington workplace discrimination attorney can evaluate whether you were the victim of illegal workplace discrimination and advocate on your behalf. Get in touch with our office today.