How Do You Spell Civil Rights? ENDA

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Jan. 22 that it has filed a lawsuit against a Charlotte security-services company on behalf of a group of male employees who claim that their same-sex captain and lieutenant sexually harassment them.

This news comes on the heels of President Obama’s Inaugural Address, which The New Yorker calls, “America’s most important gay rights speech.” It was not only what the President said, but also the context in which he said it—on Martin Luther King Day, as part of a larger discussion about the civil rights movement.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall….

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began…. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law—for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

What does this mean for you, as an employer? It means that President Obama’s second term will likely be the point in history when sexual orientation achieves equality. It means that sometime between now and 2016, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will become the law of the land, amending Title VII to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected employment classes on par with race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, and age. It’s about time.

The time is coming when LGBT discrimination will no longer be acceptable. As an employer, you can get ahead of this issue. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 88 percent of the Fortune 500 has non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, and 57 percent include gender identity. ENDA or not, we should be at 100 percent. It’s appalling that 13 years into the twenty-first century, it is still legal in the United States of America to treat people different solely because of their inclusion in a marginalized group. Get on the bandwagon now, and send a signal to all of your employees that you are a business of inclusion, not one of bigotry and exclusion.

Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.