Its employees represent only a small proportion of the U.S. labor force, but when it comes to symbolism, probably no agency can set a better non-discrimination standard than the U.S. Department of Labor.
And that’s what DOL Secretary Hilda Solis did this month when she announced that, as part of her commitment to have a “model workplace, free from unlawful discrimination and harassment, which fosters a work environment that fully utilizes the capabilities of every employee,” DOL was adding gender identity (and pregnancy) to its list of protected classes.
Employment discrimination is very much related to aging issues, as retirement income is almost solely based on how much earned income people are able to command during their working lives. If young and middle-aged transgender adults are discriminated against in the workplace and hence command lower salaries than they otherwise would, this discrimination will follow them the rest of their lives, resulting in lower pensions and Social Security benefits. And as the recent national Transgender Discrimination Study (http://transequality.org/PDFs/NTDS_Report.pdf) documents, employment discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming workers is rampant.
This action is but one more in a long series of ground-breaking steps the Obama Administration has taken to advance LGBT rights wherever that can be done without Congressional approval. You can read Secretary Solis’s statement at http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/crc/crc-internal/eeo.htm