Alabama: Employer Asks Transgender Employee “What Are You?” Then Fires Her

Imagine after a challenging period of time trying to find employment, you think you’ve found a dream job.

Not only a good job, but the company that’s hired you offers to pay to train you.

This was the case of Jessi Dye, a transgender woman living in Vinetown, Alabama.

On her first day at work at Summerford Nursing Home she arrived on time, filled out paperwork, received vaccinations (she would be training to become a certified nurse’s assistant). But come lunch time, Dye was summoned to the office of Robert Summerford, the manager for the facility.

“What are you?” he asked.

At that moment, Dye says she felt “exactly like being punched in the stomach.”

Dye explained that she was born male and transitioning to female.

From there, the situation got even worse with Summerford asking, “What am I supposed to do with you?”

And with that, Dye was fired on the spot.

Via the Huffington Post:

In March, Dye, with the support of lawyers from the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

On Thursday, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced that Summerford had reached a settlement with Dye. Rather than face a possible fight over Dye’s accusation in federal court, the company agreed to implement a policy that prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and to conduct sensitivity training concerning LGBT people. (The amount of money paid to Dye in the settlement has not been disclosed.)

Sam Wolfe, a lawyer with SPLC, sees Summerford’s quick capitulation and favorable settlement offer as a positive sign that the climate toward LGBT people in the workplace is shifting around the country, even in states like Alabama, which have no statewide laws prohibiting LGBT discrimination.

“I think the takeaway here is that we have a small company that is represented by competent lawyers and they saw the writing on the wall,” Wolfe told The Huffington Post. “It’s an admission that employers do need to pay attention to their obligations under federal law to not discriminate because of someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation.”

This episode is not unique, and underscores why transgender folks (and gays and lesbians) need the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed in Congress to protect against these kinds of cases.

For her part, Dye is glad the lawsuit at least brought attention to the very real issue of transgender protections. “I don’t want anybody else to have to go through what I went through that day,” she said.

New Poll: Huge Majority Of Americans Support Federal LGBT Protections

According to a new Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll, a big majority of Americans – 69% – support a federal law that would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBT folks.

Predictably Democrats showed strong support for such legislation at 80%. But independent voters weren’t far behind at 72%. Even Republicans eked out a majority of support at 51%.

LGBT advocacy groups have tried for years to get the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed which would cover many of these protections. Unfortunately, it hasn’t passed in both Congressional chambers in one session.

Perhaps with this kind of support out there, politicians may find more courage to do the right thing on the issue.

Read more from the survey here.

Last Ditch Effort To Pass ENDA Dies in GOP-Controlled House Committee

A last ditch effort to pass the US Senate approved version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act died in a GOP-controlled House committee last night.

Supporters attempted to attach the bill via amendment to the defense spending bill as it heads to the full House floor, but the measure was voted down 7-3 in the House Rules Committee along party lines.

The Senate passed a version of ENDA last year with a bipartisan vote of 64-32 vote.

The House, set to adjourn by Dec. 11, never brought the legislation up for a vote even though there was bipartisan support.

When the new Congress is seated for the 114th Congress, it’s highly unlikely the bill will see passage given Republicans will then control both chambers of Congress.


Poll: Strong Majority of Americans Support LGBT Workplace Protections

A new poll commissioned by Out & Equal Workplace Advocates shows a strong majority of Americans support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act currently passed by the US Senate but languishing in the House.

The results of the poll via press release:

• 65% of American adults agree that federal law should be expanded to include protection from job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

• 55% of all adults don’t believe that any employers should be exempt if ENDA were to become law

• Only 35% of all adults believe churches or other houses of worship should be exempt

• Only 30% believe privately held businesses with owners citing religious beliefs should be exempt

• Just 21% of adults believe publicly held businesses citing religious beliefs should be exempt

• Only 19% believe small businesses generally should be exempt

“This year’s survey reinforces what we are seeing in companies, government agencies and businesses around the country – even around the world– that more and more business leaders are supporting workplace equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees,” said Selisse Berry, Founder, CEO, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.

“While this is good news we still have work to do to protect employees who can still be fired in 29 U.S. states for being LGBT and in 32 if one is transgender. Out & Equal will continue to work with our partners to build workplace equality for all members of our LGBT community.”

President Obama signs executive order banning LGBT discrimination by federal contractors

This morning, President Obama signed an executive order banning discrimination in the workplace against LGBT employees of the federal government and federal contractors.

The executive order adds sexual orientation and gender identity to an existing executive order that already protects employees of federal contractors based on race, religion, color, sex or national origin.

The amended executive order is comprised of two components. The first makes it illegal to fire or harass employees of federal contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That provision will not go into effect until next year.

 The second component bans discrimination against transgender employees of the federal government. This becomes effective immediately.

“America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people,” Obama said during remarks at the White House just before signing the order. “I’m going to do what I can with the authority I have to act.”

There are approximately 28 million employees of contractors who work with the federal government.

Watch below as President Obama signs executive orders banning discrimination against LGBT employees in the federal workplace.

LGBT advocacy groups withdraw support for ENDA over religious exemption clause

In the aftermath of the recent Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision, LGBT advocacy groups are withdrawing their support of ENDA, passed last fall in the US Senate but currently languishing in the House.

The American Civil Liberties Union issued this statement via press release:

The provision in the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that allows religious organizations to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity has long been a source of significant concern to us.

Given the types of workplace discrimination we see increasingly against LGBT people, together with the calls for greater permission to discriminate on religious grounds that followed immediately upon the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has become clear that the inclusion of this provision is no longer tenable.

It would prevent ENDA from providing protections that LGBT people desperately need and would make very bad law with potential further negative effects.

Therefore, we are announcing our withdrawal of support for the current version of ENDA.

From Executive Director Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

“If a private company can take its own religious beliefs and say you can’t have access to certain health-care, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to an interpretation that a private company could have religious beliefs that LGBT people are not equal or somehow go against their beliefs and therefore fire them. We disagree with that trend. The implications of Hobby Lobby are becoming clear…We do not take this decision lightly. We’ve been pushing for this bill for 20 years.”

In addition, a coalition comprised of the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights issued a joint statement that they also would be withdrawing support.

According to the statement, the legislation’s current religious exemptions clause is so broadly written that “ENDA’s discriminatory provision, unprecedented in federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, could provide religiously affiliated organizations – including hospitals, nursing homes and universities – a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people.”

LGBT activists are now advocating adding the four words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure fair protections for all LGBT folks.

Labor Secretary Tom Perez on executive order banning workplace discrimination for transgender individuals

President Obama listens as Labor Secretary Tom Perez speaks at the White House

Labor Secretary Tom Perez on the soon to be issued executive order banning discrimination based on gender identity for employees of federal contractors:

As we celebrate Pride Month and approach the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the Labor Department is reaffirming its commitment to equal opportunity for all. That’s why we are updating enforcement protocols and anti-discrimination guidance to clarify that we provide the full protection of the federal non-discrimination laws that we enforce to transgender individuals.

These changes reflect current law. In Macy v. Holder, for example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded that discrimination because a person is transgender is sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Civil Rights Center, along with the Employment and Training Administration, will issue guidance to make clear that discrimination on the basis of transgender status is discrimination based on sex.

While the department has long protected employees from sex-based discrimination, its guidance to workers and employers will explicitly clarify that this includes workers who identify as transgender. The department will continue to examine its programs to identify additional pportunities to extend the law’s full protection against discrimination to transgender workers.

Our workforce and our entire economy are strongest when we embrace diversity to its fullest, and that means opening doors of opportunity to everyone and recognizing that the American Dream excludes no one.

(via press release)

President Obama announces LGBT workplace protections executive order at NYC fundraiser

Earlier this week, President Obama spoke at a Democratic LGBT Fundraiser in New York City where he announced the news that he will be signing an executive order aimed at federal contractors and banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Via the Los Angeles Times:

After taking the stage at the Democratic National Committee fundraiser, Obama had to wait for at least a minute for the shouting to die down before he could start speaking. A few minutes later, he delivered in person the news his team made public earlier in the week: that he has ordered them to draft an executive order aimed at federal contractors and banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

If some lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Democrats had been dismayed with the president for his long wait before issuing the order, they were over it Tuesday. “Sometimes you guys were a little impatient,” Obama joked. “Sometimes I had to say, ‘Will you just settle down for a second?'”

From the President’s speech via White House press release:

This is a country where no matter who you are, or what you look like, or how you came up, or what your last name is, or who you love — if you work hard and you take responsibility, you should be able to make it.

That’s the story of America. That’s the story of this movement: People who stand up and come out and march, and organize, and fight to expand the rights we enjoy and extend them to other people — people who work against the odds to build a nation in which nobody is a second-class citizen, everybody is free to be who they are; and that you’re judged based on are you kind and competent and work hard, and treat each other with respect, and are a team player and look after your community, and care and love and cherish your kids.

That’s how we’re supposed to be judged. That’s the fight that brought all of us here today. That’s what made it possible for me to stand up here as your President. It’s what gave many people in this room the freedom to live their lives freely. It’s what should inspire us to keep working to make sure all our children grow up in an America where differences are respected and even celebrated, and where love is love.

Map: States with LGBT workplace protections in place

The White House announced Monday that President Obama will sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation.

The US Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, in November. The bill ban all employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, in the same manner that federal law prohibits discrimination on the ground of race or religion.

However, the bill stalled in the Republican-controlled House, in part because Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) believes that the bill would “increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”

While the president’s executive order will cover some but not all employers, also of concern is the fact that executive orders can be undone by future presidents.

But what about state laws? How many states have laws on the books prohibiting employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation? Currently, 21 states plus plus the District of Columbia have laws on the books protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

(via Washington Post)