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Harkin: Obama Executive Order Mirrors Senate Action to Ban Discrimination in the Workplace

Harkin Led Bipartisan Senate Passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement today following an announcement that President Obama is directing his Administration to develop an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractor workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers. In November 2013, Harkin led the effort in the Senate to pass—on a bipartisan basis—the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity across all workplaces. Harkin, as Chairman of the HELP Committee, also oversaw the ‎bipartisan passage of ENDA in the Committee in July 2013, and cosigned a letter signed by 195 Senators and Members of Congress urging the President to issue an Executive Order banning such discrimination by federal contractors.

“Freedom from workplace discrimination is a basic civil right that all Americans deserve, including our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender family members, friends, and neighbors. I applaud President Obama for taking this important step toward eliminating discrimination against LGBT federal contractors and look forward to continued work with the Administration as it develops its Executive Order prohibiting such prejudice,” Harkin said. “The reality is that many LGBT workers still remain vulnerable to employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Without the enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, it remains perfectly legal to do so in many states across the country. The House should take up and pass ENDA, which was approved with bipartisan support both in the HELP Committee and on the Senate floor.”

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would prohibit employers from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against those employed or seeking employment on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. Such protections are already in place prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability. More than 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies already extend workplace protections based on sexual orientation and more than one-third on the basis of gender identity.