Sexual Orientation and the Federal Workplace

Sexual Orientation and the Federal Workplace
Sexual Orientation and the Federal Workplace
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This study examined Federal employee perceptions of workplace treatment based on sexual orientation, reviewed how Federal workplace protections from sexual orientation discrimination have evolved, and determined if further action is warranted to communicate or clarify those protections.  The U.S. Office of Personnel Management interprets the tenth Prohibited Personnel Practice, which bars discrimination in Federal personnel actions based on conduct that does not adversely affect job performance, to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination.  As this prohibition has neither been specifically expressed in statute nor affirmed in judicial decision, it has been subject to alternate interpretations.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Federal employee perceptions of the workplace are generally less positive than those of their colleagues.  We found, however, that in some agencies for at least some workplace issues, LGBT employee perceptions were as positive as those of other employees.  This suggests that agencies may be able to create more inclusive cultures, resulting in a more positive atmosphere in the workplace.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary i

Historical Foundations: Discrimination to Accommodation 1

Background 1

Legislative Investigation 3

Civil Service Policy 9

Judicial Response 12

Steps Toward Inclusion 17

Change in Civil Service Policy 17

Prohibited Personnel Practices 18

Executive Order 13087 22

Federal Employee Benefit Programs 23

The Tenth Prohibited Personnel Practice: Employee Perceptions 27

Discrimination Based on Off-Duty Conduct 27

Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation 28

Relationship to Employee Engagement 29

Communicating the Policy of Non-Discrimination 31

LGBT Employee 2012 FEVS Results 33

LGBT Employee Demographics 34

LGBT Employee Perceptions of the Federal Workplace 36

The Current State of Protection from Sexual Orientation Discrimination  45

Recommendations 49

Appendix: Methods 53


Federal employees, their supervisors, agency management, union personnel, especially Human Capital officers and employees across the U.S. Federal Government may be interested in this report.  Additionally, members of Congress, and Federal managers within the Office of Management and Budget, and Office of Personnel Management that is responsible for policy making authority may find this guide helpful as a reference with human resources and civil service matters.  Additionally, students pursuing research for courses within these fields, especially public administration, human resources, employment law, organizational development, and industrial-organizational psychology may find this primary source document that deals with civil service issues helpful for assignments.

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