5 questions with Benjamin Leal
Benjamin Leal, 27, is outreach associate for the the South Central Regional Office of Lambda Legal. On Tuesday, May 15, Lambda Legal is sponsoring its first-ever Clock in for Equality, in which employers and employees across the country will be asked to do something to support workplace fairness for LGBT and HIV-positive people. In conjunction, the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce will host a luncheon and panel discussion from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre, 5410 LBJ Freeway in Dallas. The cost is $25 for members and $30 for nonmembers. To RSVP, visit www.glbtchamber.org or call 214-219-8585, ext. 238.
What are the goals behind Clock in For Equality?
We have three goals: first, to educate the public about the discrimination LGBT and HIV-positive people face at work; second, to increase support for efforts to win legal protections for these employees; and third, to activate LGBT people and allies to fight for these employees’ rights.
What are a few examples of things Lambda Legal is asking that employers and employees do?
We have an action guide on our Web site (www.lambdalegal.org) that includes suggestions such as wearing a button or sticker to work; bringing a picture of your partner to work; having lunchtime discussions or organizing a workplace or community forum. People are encouraged to take action whether they live in a state that has strong protections, or in one that does not.
Should people be concerned about putting their jobs on the line by participating in this event?
Without any specific legal protections in Texas, some people may feel uncomfortable being out at work or participating. We encourage people to make decisions that are right for them and to carefully consider whether they are risking their jobs or economic security. That concern really highlights the problem. And it’s all the more reason people who feel safe speaking up should do it for those who can’t.
Does the event take on added significance given that the Employment Nondiscrimination Act recently was reintroduced in Congress?
ENDA has been a topic in Congress for many years now, but this year we are hopeful that it will gain passage and we are joining together across the country to voice our support. But whether ENDA passes or not, we make progress with employers when they see our faces and hear our stories. That’s why it is important for everyone who is comfortable to be visible on the issue.
Based on your experience, how bad is workplace discrimination against the LGBT community in general across the county?
This is still a huge issue for our community. The employers we’ve sued in recent years show the range of types of workers and workplaces where discrimination still occurs. Of the thousands of calls Lambda Legal’s Help Desk received last year, workplace fairness was the No. 1 issue.
Soundout is a weekly column featuring people whose jobs and interests have an impact on the daily lives of members of the GLBT community. It features those who often go unnoticed by the press and community. If you’d like to recommend someone to cover in this column, contact staff writer John Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 27, 2007.