It’s too early to tell what a presidential order protecting the rights of gay and transgender employees hired by companies that contract with the federal government might mean for local employers, experts and representatives of local businesses said Monday.
An executive order signed by President Barack Obama on Monday prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against gay and transgender employees.
“At a critical time for our nation’s economy, we need all of our workers to be focused on making the most of their talent, skill, and ingenuity, rather than worrying about losing their job due to discrimination,” said a press release issued by the Office of the Press Secretary of The White House. “Discrimination is not just wrong, it also can keep qualified workers from maximizing their potential to contributing to the strengthening of our economy.”
The order comes after a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled privately-held companies do not have to offer employees contraceptive coverage that conflicts with the owners’ religious beliefs.
Monday’s executive order did not contain a religious exemption.
Kate Kennedy, manager of media and public relations for the Society for Human Resources Management, said on Monday it is too early to tell what kind of impact the order might have on hiring practices for companies that do contract work with the federal government. Kennedy said while the society supports measures to ban discrimination in the workplace, it would still need to review the order, as well as what actions the U.S. Department of Labor takes regarding the measure before it could comment.
“We need time to review this order and assess it,” Kennedy said. “And then we’re going to see what steps the Department of Labor take, and that’s going to take 90 days.”
Several representatives of businesses that have federal contracts that spoke with The Star Monday also seemed unsure of what the measure might mean for their companies. According to the government website USASpending.gov, which tracks federal contracts, several employers in Calhoun County regularly do business with the federal government, ranging from cleaning services to multi-million dollar contracts for defense vehicles and construction. Several businesses, including Valley Machine in Alexandria, CKC Systems in Eastaboga, and BAE Systems, one of the area’s biggest companies doing regular federal contract work, declined to comment Monday.
An employee with Eastaboga-based ATAP, a company that provides parts and construction for Air Force vehicles, said the company wasn’t familiar with the order. The employee said the company, which includes a gospel section on its website, as well as other Bible-based messages, would need to review the order before commenting on it.
The impact on the LGBT community in Alabama was also unknown Monday. Hubert Tate, a spokesman with the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization promoting the rights of the LGBT community throughout the country, including Alabama, said the organization could not respond to The Star’s questions about the executive order before press time on Monday.