Virginia Is For ALL Lovers, Including LGBTQ

By:  Amy Epstein Gluck

Hello Dulles Technology Corridor, there are some new employment requirements in town for you businesses that work with the state government.

Today, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order requiring all future state contractors with the Executive Branch to agree to a non-discrimination policy specifically based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This action builds on Executive Order Number 1 by extending the same protections offered to state employees to the employees of contractors that do business with the Commonwealth.

Why This Order?

The importance of the initiative, according to the Order, is based on Virginia’s founding creed that all people “are by nature equally free and independent,” sharing “the enjoyment of life and liberty…” while embracing “the diverse world in which we live.”

I’m pretty sure the Declaration of Independence also supports the notion that all people are by nature equally free…or words to that effect.

Look, in private sector workplaces, protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity has remained elusive—as Rich and I have both written prolifically here and here, you can marry your same sex partner on a Sunday and be fired on Monday.

But this is no longer the case for companies who aspire to work with the Commonwealth of Virginia. While Executive Order 1 prohibited discrimination in the state workforce based on sexual orientation, the new Order (EO 61), which can be read here, goes much further by telling companies: Hey, you want to do business with the Commonwealth? OK, you need to follow our prohibitions against LGBTQ discrimination to do it.

Or words to that effect.

Of course, federal contractors and subcontractors have had to comply with anti-discrimination laws on this basis since April 2015, when President Obama enacted E.O. 13672 to amend  E.O. 11246 and include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

Governor McAuliffe said: “Starting today, the Commonwealth of Virginia will not do business with entities that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Virginia is home to the best state workforce in the country and this policy will ensure there is no question that all Virginians are to receive the full benefits of their citizenship, without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Look at you Governor! Amen to that!

Equality Virginia is, unsurprisingly, a fan. “In addition to keeping Virginia a place with a commonsense, pro-business government, today’s Executive Order is a huge leap forward in our goal toward becoming a state that is a safe, welcoming, and equal place for all Virginians. We are grateful for the continued leadership demonstrated by Governor McAuliffe on gay and transgender issues,” said Equality Virginia’s executive director James Parrish. “This policy is simply good business practice—taxpayers should expect that their money will not be used to support organizations that discriminate; it goes a long way towards keeping Virginia competitive to businesses and aligns the Commonwealth’s practices with those of most Fortune 500 companies.”

Will A Lot of Companies REALLY Be Affected By This Order?

Um, yeah. A whole lot.
The Dulles Corridor, dubbed by The Atlantic as “The Silicon Valley of the East,” houses the regional offices of powerhouse companies like Apple, IBM, Google, Siemens, Symantec, and Verizon to name just a few, as well as thousands of smaller information technology consultants and companies that have contracts with the state government. A slew of well-known government contractors are headquartered there, too, including Booz Allen Hamilton, Northrop Gruman, CACI, MicroStrategy, and DynCorp.
They’ll have to, and I think they’re up to the challenge.

Employer Takeaway:

So, if you’re in the Dulles Tech Corridor (or anywhere in Virginia) and you’re looking to bid on that lucrative state government contract, first take a good, long look at your employment policies.

Employers should revise their anti-discrimination corporate policies to specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics in all areas of employment.

It’s the law in these parts now.

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Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.