Celebrating and supporting our LGBTQI+ co-workers

Photo: Adobe Stock

By Anthony Golden, U.S. Department of Labor

Diversity is an essential component of a successful team. The more skills, experiences and ideas we have to draw from, the more equipped we are to develop creative solutions. America’s diversity has always been one of our greatest strengths, which is why the Department of Labor is proud to support and enforce laws that protect America’s workers in all of our diversity. 

Diversity, however, has to consider and acknowledge any barriers to full participation and inclusion of all workers. For workers in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) community, such as myself, concerns about harassment, prejudice and discrimination can prevent us from comfortably owning our identities in the workplace. So this Pride Month, we’re taking the opportunity to joyfully celebrate our LGBTQI+ colleagues and all the policies that protect our rights at work.

The Biden-Harris administration has taken many steps to counter sexuality- and gender-based discrimination, including signing executive orders to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the federal workforce, and to advance equality for LGBTQI+ individuals. The administration also established the White House Gender Policy Council, issued a National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence and was the first administration to recognize Transgender Day of Visibility. 

These are just a few of the policies that underscore the value of diversity and strive to address the consequences of discrimination – and they are as important today as they have ever been. As President Biden noted in his Proclamation for Pride Month, state and local legislatures have introduced more than 600 hateful laws targeting LGBTQI+ people just this year. This comes amidst a rise in violent threats, bans on books and other media featuring LGBTQI+ people, as well as limits on access to necessary healthcare. Despite this vitriol, LGBTQI+ communities remain resilient and committed to equity. 

We are happy to join the administration in continuing to support the ongoing work required “to ensure that everyone enjoys the full promise of equity, dignity, protection and freedom.” Within the Department of Labor, here are some of the ways we support LGBTQI+ workers: 

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs ensures that businesses that benefit from federal contracts don’t use that money to discriminate against LGBTQI+ workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued guidance on best practices for restroom access for transgender workers. Job Corps, the largest residential and job training program for income-eligible youth and young adults between the ages of 16 to 24, published guidance for their staff on ensuring equal access to the program for transgender applicants and students

The Wage and Hour Division ensures that marriage equality is respected under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and our Employee Benefits Security Administration ensures that efforts to protect workplace benefits for employees and their spouses adhere to the definitions of “spouse” and “marriage” under the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision. Their Benefits Advisors help workers and their families, including those in LGBTQI+ communities, access the health and retirement benefits available to them under their workplace-based plans. 

The Employment and Training Administration has offered guidance to workforce development professionals on gender identity, gender expression and sex stereotyping. Consistent with the Supreme Court’s landmark Bostock decision, the department’s Civil Rights Center has also published a notice that it will interpret the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s prohibitions on sex-based discrimination as inclusive of sexual orientation as well as gender identity discrimination (the latter has been protected since 2017).

The Department of Labor’s internal policies reaffirm our commitment to creating an inclusive culture for all of our employees, regardless of sexual orientation, transgender status, gender identity, gender expression and variations in sex characteristics. And in 2022, we hired our first Chief Diversity and Equity Officer, who works to build and strengthen the diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility infrastructure within the department and across every level of government.

Finally, for department employees, Pride@DOL is the department’s LGBTQI+ affinity group and is here to support all members of the community (allies welcome!).

No one should be singled out simply for how they exist in the world – be it for who they are or who they love. Everyone deserves to feel safe at work and be free from harassment or discrimination. Protecting LGBTQI+ workers and ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is an important part of our mission – not just during Pride Month, but all year round. 

Anthony Golden is an equal opportunity specialist in the department’s Civil Rights Center and secretary/treasurer of Pride@DOL.

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