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Executive orders may protect employees on sex, gender basis

Q&A with Kathy Neal

published in The Oklahoman | August 6, 2014

In July, President Obama amended two existing Executive Orders to prohibit federal employers, including federal contractors and subcontractors, from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender. While the orders do not amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include these same characteristics, they do effectively expand civil rights protections to tens of millions of American workers.

Labor and employment attorney Kathy Neal was interviewed by The Oklahoman about the amended orders and previous failed attempts by Congress to pass legislation to amend Title VII. The most recent bill was the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

“Interestingly, Obama’s amendments to the executive orders are narrower in scope, yet potentially broader in reach than had ENDA been passed,” said Neal. The orders apply to the federal government, as well as federal contractors or subcontractors with contracts worth $10,000 or more in a year. The latter, said Neal, potentially affects small businesses with fewer than 15 employees and religious organizations that receive federal funds, such as universities, hospitals and charitable organizations.”