Non-Discrimination: Federal and Illinois Levels

In much of the nation, you can be fired for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Employment non-discrimination legislation is necessary as LGBT people continue to face adversity and discrimination in the workplace.
Nationally, there is no comprehensive federal non-discrimination law protecting LGBT Americans, though there are federal rules and policies prohibiting discrimination regarding some specific topics.
State laws aren’t much better. More than 206 million people – 65 percent of Americans – live in states where LGBT people have no explicit statewide workplace protections that include sexual orientation and gender identity. And even some states that protect lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers have no provisions making discrimination against transgender workers illegal.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has been proposed in nearly every Congress since 1994, yet again failed to reach the president’s desk in the last term. The strategy of how to achieve a comprehensive federal non-discrimination law moving forward is now a matter of discussion among Congressional allies and LGBT advocates.

President Obama signs executive order prohibiting workplace discrimination by federal contractors against LGBT employees

President Obama signs executive order prohibiting workplace discrimination by federal contractors against LGBT employees

In the meantime, with Congress not acting on the need for federal protections, President Obama signed an executive order in July, 2014, prohibiting employment discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors against LGBT workers. Its effective date is April 8, 2015.
Learn more about the executive order at the U.S. Department of Labor website. The new federal rule states: “The contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.” The President’s executive order added the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the federal anti-discrimination language. While previous rulings had determined that the earlier inclusion of “sex” covered transgender workers, the new language makes that clear by adding “gender identity.”
Approximately 25 percent of the American workforce is employed by companies doing business with the federal government.  This includes a wide array of industries and jobs which may include employees at banks, meat packing plants, retail stores, manufacturing plants, accounting firms, and  constructions companies. Familiar brand names that do business with the federal government such as Exxon Mobil are already changing their policies to comply with the executive order.
Comprehensive federal legislation would address discrimination nationally by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote an employee simply based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.  It would reinforce the principle that employment decisions should be based upon a person’s merit and job performance. Equality Illinois supports a federal law as long it is comprehensive in covering lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers and there is no broad religious exemption.
Illinois’ own Human Rights Act, enacted in 2005 with bipartisan support and with a key role played by Equality Illinois in securing passage, has worked effectively to protect LGBT employees on the same terms as other groups. To add new and far broader religious exemptions to LGBT nondiscrimination laws would set a dangerous precedent for new carve-outs to other existing federal civil rights law.
We are grateful to U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, who worked hard to pass ENDA through the Senate in the last session, and to our Representatives in the House who cosponsored ENDA. We will continue to work with the Illinois Congressional Delegation and our national partners to achieve comprehensive workplace protection.


THE FACTS: Under state law, employees in Illinois are protected from workplace discrimination stemming from their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Under the Illinois Human Rights Act (en Español), Illinois is one of 18 states in the country to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
To learn more about the Illinois law regarding employment non-discrimination, contact the Illinois Department of Human Rights (en Español).