Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Sexual orientation protected at Department of Labor

The U.S. Department of Labor announced last week its full commitment to implementing equal employment opportunity policies for all department employees and applicants, providing protections for various protected classes, including sexual orientation, which traditionally has had few express protections under federal law.

According to the DOL, the policies ensure equal protections for all employees and applicants regardless of race; color; religion; national origin; sex, including pregnancy and gender identity; age; disability, whether physical or mental; genetic information; status as a parent; sexual orientation; or other non-merit factor.

New, robust statements signed by Secretary Solis include updated policies on prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender identity and pregnancy, according to the DOL.

"I am expressing my personal commitment to ensure that the U.S. Department of Labor is a model workplace, free from unlawful discrimination and harassment, which fosters a work environment that fully utilizes the capabilities of every employee," said Secretary Solis. "It is my goal that we achieve and maintain a high-quality, diverse workforce at all organizational levels throughout the department."

The Labor Department is required to issue annual written policy statements expressing the secretary's commitment to equal employment opportunity and a workplace free of discriminatory harassment, pursuant to 29 Code of Federal Regulations Part 1614, Federal Sector Equal Employment Opportunity, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Management Directive 715. The EEOC's directive identifies minimum requirements for the policy statements.

The statements issued by Secretary Solis articulate stronger protections and establish responsibilities to ensure meaningful adherence to equal employment opportunity throughout the department. They have been disseminated to all current employees and will be disseminated to new employees during orientation as well as to employees who are promoted into supervisory ranks.

The department's policies on equal employment opportunity and harassing conduct in the workplace can be viewed here and here.

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