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President inks order addressing LGBT workplace harassment

President Barack Obama recently took it upon himself to enact new workplace-related law after successive efforts to do so through Congress via the traditional legislative route failed.

His recent executive order was deemed "historic" by a spokesperson for a national advocacy group that lobbies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Indeed, that seems an apt description, given that the president's action added a new protection against discrimination in the federal workplace. That significance was underscored by U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez earlier this month, with Perez noting that the protection accorded LGBT employees in the federal workforce was "the first expansion [of categories protected against discrimination] since 1974."

In fact, the president signed an executive order banning offices in the federal government and contractors working with the government from discriminating against LGBT employees -- including firing them based on their sexual orientation -- last June. Following that order, things moved slowly and methodically forward, with the final order that took effect earlier this month (on April 8) being preceded by months of rule writing and process implementation.

The effect of the new law promises to be of almost seismic proportions, given its broad sweep and the number of people affected. It is estimated that about 24,000 American companies do contracted work for the federal government, with those entities employing about 28 million workers.

Reportedly, that equates to approximately 20 percent of the entire workforce in the United States.

As noted in a recent Huffington Post article, many states have still not enacted legislation that effectively bars workplace harassment and other discrimination against LGBT workers.

In Massachusetts, any worker with questions or concerns regarding workplace discrimination can receive prompt answers and diligent representation that fully promotes his or her legal rights from an experienced employment law attorney.

Source: Huffington Post, "It is now illegal for a federal contractor to fire someone for being LGBT," Jennifer Bendery, April 8, 2015

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