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Duckworth Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Protect Federal Employees From Workplace Discrimination

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (IL-08) today introduced good government legislation to strengthen civil rights protections that prevent Federal employees from being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The bipartisan Clarification of Federal Employment Protections Act would codify in federal law long-standing policies that currently prohibit such discrimination against civil servants, but that could also easily be rolled back by a future President unless Congress acts to secure them. Congresswoman Duckworth was joined by the Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD-07), and Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY-22), in introducing the bill.

“I’m proud of the important strides our nation has made toward equality and overcoming discrimination, but we cannot simply rest on our laurels or believe our job is done,” said Congresswoman Duckworth.“Where possible, Congress should enshrine civil rights protections in law to ensure they cannot be overturned with the stroke of a pen. My bipartisan legislation will protect federal employees from unfair discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and I am proud to work with Congressmen Cummings and Hanna on this bill.”

The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, which serves as an independent federal agency charged with protecting federal employees’ rights, highlighted this as a potential issue with employee protection and advised that Congress could remove any legal ambiguity or uncertainty by enacting legislation that makes prohibitions against this discrimination explicit. The bipartisan Clarification of Federal Employment Protections Actwould strengthen our nation’s merit-based civil service system by modestly amending the law to clarify that discrimination against a federal employee on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity constitutes a prohibited personnel practice. Enacting this bipartisan Duckworth-Cummings-Hanna legislation would prevent future Presidential Administrations from eliminating these important protections and ensure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted on costly litigation that would likely follow such a discriminatory policy reversal.

“This good-government legislation will clarify that discrimination laws for federal employees provide protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Congressman Cummings.  “I thank Rep. Duckworth for introducing this critical, bipartisan legislation and I hope this bill will advance through the Oversight Committee and the House of Representatives.”

“No person seeking employment should be judged on anything other than their ability and skillset to do the job,” said Congressman Hanna.  “This bill would make clear that all people are protected under the law and that discriminatory practices on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity are strictly prohibited. These practices have been followed for some time, but because the protections are not enshrined in law, LGBT federal employees still face uncertainty in the workplace and could be terminated subject to new interpretation."

The Human Rights Campaign and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) support the bipartisan Duckworth-Cummings-Hanna legislation.