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LGBT employees protected under new federal rule

December 5, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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A new federal rule announced this week by the Department of Labor (DOL), prohibiting employers from discriminating on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity, will apply to seniors housing and services providers if they enter into new—or modify existing—federal contracts or subcontracts worth $10,000 or more on or after April 6, a DOL spokeswoman told Long-Term Living.

The rule, expected to be published in the Dec. 9 Federal Register, implements Executive Order (EO) 13672 [PDF], an update to EO 11246 that President Barack Obama signed July 21. Eighteen states, the District of Columbia and many individual businesses already offer workplace protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees, according to the DOL, but July’s executive order was the first federal action to ensure LGBT workplace equality in the private sector.

The new rule wll be enforced by the DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The provider agreements under which hospitals and other healthcare providers receive reimbursements for services covered by Medicare Parts A and B or via state Medicaid agencies are not considered covered government contracts under the laws enforced by the OFCCP, according to the DOL. Therefore, if a healthcare provider's only relationship with the federal government is as a participating provider under Medicare Parts A and B or Medicaid, then that provider is not affected by the laws enforced by the OFCCP. Providers, however, may be covered contractors because of other contractual arrangements, such as providing healthcare to active or retired members of the military under contracts with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs or the Department of Defense.

In addition to EO 11246, the OFCCP enforces Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. These three laws require contractors and subcontractors that do business with the federal government to follow the fair and reasonable standard that they not discriminate in employment on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability, status as a protected veteran—and now sexual orientation and gender identity.

More information about the new rule is available on the OFCCP website.