60 businesses, including numerous DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity and 25 Noteworthy Companies, have publicly endorsed the Equality Act of 2015, a bill that would put an end to workplace discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity which is still currently legal in most states.
According to the bill’s text, theEquality Actwould “[amend] the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation.” “Sex” refers to “a sex stereotype, sexual orientation or gender identity, and pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.”
The Equality Act was introduced in July 2015 by Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI) and John Lewis (D-GA) and Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
To date, 32 states do not have full legal protection in place for LGBT workers meaning that in more than half of the country, workers can still be fired based on LGBT discrimination.
In addition to workplace laws, the Equality Act would also protect LGBT people from discrimination when it comes to housing, credit and the jury system.
DiversityInc’s 2015 Top 50 Companies for Diversitythat endorsed the Equality Act areSodexo(No. 5),MasterCard(No. 6),Johnson & Johnson(No. 9),Marriott International(No. 13),Accenture(No. 15),General Mills(No. 19),IBM(No. 22),Target(No. 25),Kellogg Company(No. 26),Monsanto(No. 43) andHilton Worldwide(No. 47).
These companies and others teamed up with theHuman Rights Campaignto create the HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act.
Merkley applauded the companies, noting that it is not only right but also a good decision business-wise.
“No one should have to fear discrimination simply because of who they are or whom they love,” he said. “It’s incomprehensibly wrong that in many states, a couple could marry in the morning and be evicted from their apartment or fired from their jobs in the afternoon. Full equality is the right thing to do, and it’s good for business too.”
HRC President Chad Griffin also commended the companies for their choice.
“These business leaders are showing true leadership and fighting to end a shameful status quo that leaves LGBT people at risk in a majority of states for being denied services or fired because of who they are or who they love,” Griffin said. “We’re proud of all these corporate leaders stepping forward to say that all Americans, including LGBT people, should be able to live free from fear of discrimination and have a fair chance to earn a living.”
Workplace discrimination against the LGBT community has been at the forefront since the legalization of gay marriage last June. Earlier this month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) made history by filing its first two lawsuits for discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation that ultimately led to two employees losing their jobs.
A lawsuit filed in Maryland on behalf of Yolanda Boone, who openly identifies as a lesbian, alleges that Boone’s former supervisor frequently harassed her and made discriminatory comments such as, “Are you a girl or a man” and “I want to turn you back into a woman.” Her employer, Pallet Companies, asked her to resign; when Boone refused, she was fired.
The second lawsuit, filed in Pennsylvania, was on behalf of Dale Baxley, a former telemarketer with the Scott Medical Health Center. Baxley’s former manager, after finding out Baxley had a partner, allegedly asked, “I always wondered how you f*** have sex” and “Who’s the butch and who is the b****” According to the lawsuit, “Baxley resigned in response to the Defendant’s creation of, and refusal to discontinue, a sexually hostile work environment. Defendant knowingly created and permitted working conditions that Baxley reasonably viewed as intolerable and that caused him to resign.”
LGBT employee discrimination also made headlines in October when David Baldwin filed a lawsuit against his former employer, the Federal Aviation Administration. Baldwin initially filed a complaint with the EEOC, which determined that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already covers federal employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation (under the term “sex”). This ruling opened the door for others who faced discrimination to file complaints and, ultimately, lawsuits.
At the time Baldwin’s case was in the news, his attorney, Lowell Kuvin, said that his client’s case “has the ability to affect more people than the [Supreme] Court’s Obergefell [marriage] case because there are more gay men and women who have jobs than same sex couples who want to get married.”