Williams Institute: Obama Executive Order Regarding Contractors Would Protect Millions of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Workers

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Many contractors of all sizes already have such policies

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This study highlights both the powerful impact of a federal policy that prohibits LGBT discrimination, as well as the continued progress already made toward protecting LGBT workers through state law and voluntary corporate policies.

According to a new study, The Impact of Extending Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Requirements to Federal Contractors, published by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, a federal executive order that requires contractors to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity would protect up to 16.5 million more workers than are already protected by state or private anti-discrimination policies.

“This study highlights both the powerful impact of a federal policy that prohibits LGBT discrimination, as well as the continued progress already made toward protecting LGBT workers through state law and voluntary corporate policies,” said the study’s author, M.V. Lee Badgett, Williams Institute Research Director and Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Public Policy & Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Currently, state laws or private policies already protect 61% of federal contractor employees from sexual orientation discrimination and 41% from gender identity discrimination.

Further, among federal contractors, 45% of their employees already have access to health care coverage for a same-sex partner. While a federal mandate would extend coverage to an additional 14-15 million workers, it is likely that only an additional 40,000 to 136,000 employees would sign up a same-sex partner for coverage. “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,” said Badgett.

Research also suggests an executive order would not disproportionately burden defense and small business contractors. Among the largest private defense contractors, state laws or private policies already cover 95% of employees against sexual orientation discrimination, 69% of employees against gender identity discrimination, and provide 81% of employees with access to benefits for a same-sex partner. Further, no heavier burden is placed on small businesses, because existing anti-discrimination policies already equally cover employees in small, medium, or large federal contractors, with the exception of higher rates of coverage for Fortune 1000 employees.

The findings in this study are based on 2009 data from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission’s EEO-1 reports. These reports are required for private sector federal contractors with 50 or more employees and a contract of at least $50,000, and for noncontractor employers with 100 or more employees. This dataset captures more than half of all private sector employees and includes firms that receive the majority of federal contracting dollars.

For more information on this study visit: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Badgett-EOImpact-Feb-20121.pdf

The Williams Institute advances sexual orientation law and public policy through rigorous, independent research and scholarship, and disseminates it to judges, legislators, policymakers, media and the public. A national think tank at UCLA Law, the Williams Institute produces high quality research with real-world relevance. For more information go to: http://www.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute/home.html

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Cathy Renna

M.V. Lee Badgett