Study: Executive order could protect 16.5 million workers


A presidential executive order requiring federal contractors to prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers would protect 16.5 million more workers, according to a new study.

LGBT civil rights advocates have encouraged the president to issue an order as a stop-gap protection until Congress enacts a broader workplace nondiscrimination bill.

The study, the Impact of Extending Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Requirements to Federal Contractors, was released over the weekend by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. The institution has released a number of studies on LGBT policy issues.

“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 author M.V. Lee Badgett, director of the institute.

State laws or private policies already protect 61 percent of federal contractor employees from sexual orientation discrimination and 41 percent from gender identity discrimination.

And among federal contractors, 45 percent of their employees already have access to health care coverage for a same-sex partner.

A federal mandate could extend coverage to an additional 14-15 million workers, but 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.

Her research also found that the largest private defense contractors, state laws or private policies already cover 95 percent of employees against sexual orientation discrimination, 69 percent of employees against gender identity discrimination, and provide 81 percent of employees with access to benefits for a same-sex partner.

The findings in this study are based on 2009 data from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission’s EEO-1 reports required for private sector federal contractors with 50 or more employees and a contract of at least $50,000, and for non-contractor employers with 100 or more employees.