Federal Agencies to Prohibit Discrimination on Basis of Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation

January 22, 2021

The Biden administration ordered federal agencies to interpret civil rights laws as prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation and to make changes as necessary to prohibit such discrimination.

The head of each agency is ordered to review all existing agency actions that prohibit sex discrimination and within 100 days develop a plan to make changes to prohibit bias on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.  

The lead-up:  Since the Obama administration, the EEOC has held the view that sexual orientation and gender identity are covered by prohibitions on discrimination on the basis of sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  Last year, the Supreme Court agreed in Bostock v. Clayton County, setting the stage for the Biden administration’s move.

The HR Policy-supported Equality Act was aimed at achieving a similar result through legislative means.  In a letter of support, the Association recognized the “fundamental role that an inclusive culture plays in enabling organizations to attract, motivate, and develop the caliber of talent needed.”

Looking ahead:  The Equality Act passed the House in the last Congress with bipartisan support.  Advocates are bullish about its prospects heading into the 117th Congress.