A Quick Overview of President Biden's Employment-Related Executive Orders to Date
Since being sworn in on January 20, President Biden has issued a number of employment-related Executive Orders, with more to come. This is a brief summary of some of them.
1. Fighting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation
This EO expands federal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Order instructs federal agencies to interpret all federal anti-discrimination statutes prohibiting sex discrimination in a manner to also protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
2. Economic Relief Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic
In this EO the President directed the U.S. Department of Labor to consider clarifying that workers may refuse employment that will jeopardize their health or the health of someone else in their household yet still qualify to receive unemployment insurance benefits. This will obviously have the potential to encourage employees to refuse to report to work out of fear for their health or that of members of their households. This is yet another reason that employers should closely follow, and be able to prove that they are following, the CDC's guidance on limiting COVID-19 exposure in the work place.
3. Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing
This EO requires federal employers to require on duty federal employees, on-site federal contractors, and all persons in federal buildings or on federal lands to comply with CDC guidelines regarding face coverings, physical distancing, and other public health measures.
This EO also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to encourage mask-wearing across the country and create incentives for mask-wearing.
4. OSHA Mandates.
This EO requires the U.S Department of Labor to take several, significant actions. By February 4, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor must:
- issue revised guidelines on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic;
- consider whether mandatory emergency measures are necessary, such as mask-wearing in the workplace and if so, issue them by March 15, 2021;
- review the COVID-19 enforcement efforts of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and identify any short-, medium-, and long-term changes;
- launch a national program through OSHA to focus on enforcement of the most serious violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles; and
- create a multilingual outreach campaign to inform workers and their representatives (including labor unions) of their rights, with a focus on communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
5. Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government
The stated purpose of this EO is to improve opportunities for historically underserved communities. The Order requires all federal agencies to review internal equity and to deliver an action plan within 200 days, addressing unequal barriers to opportunity found within each agency's policies and programs. This Order also revokes former President Trump's Order limiting the implementation of diversity and inclusion training for federal government employees and contractors. Federal contractors should anticipate the federal government to implement requirements that they implement such training in the near future.
6. Protecting the Federal Workforce
This EO restores federal employees' collective bargaining power and protections. The Order directs federal agencies to "bargain over permissible, non-mandatory subjects of bargaining when contracts are up for negotiation," and requires the Office of Personnel Management to provide a report to the President with recommendations "to promote a $15/hour minimum wage for federal employees."