UCLA releases report that shows need for ENDA passage

endaUCLA’s Williams Institute issued a report Thursday that highlights the need for federal legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was first introduced in1994 and has been brought up several times in Congress, but it didn’t go anywhere. Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate approved the measure, but it faces tough odds in the U.S. House of Representatives.

House Speaker John Boehner has said there is “no basis or need” for the legislation, and it’s not clear whether he will let the bill come up for a vote.

Currently, only 21 states have protections for LGBT employees.

Here’s a summary of the Williams Institute data that shows the hurdles LGBT people face in the workplace.

— 4%. The percentage of the U.S. workforce that identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

— 21%. That’s the percentage of LGBT employees who report having been discriminated against in hiring, promotions and pay.

— 47%. That’s the percentage of transgender employees who reported similar discrimination at work.

$0.68-$0.90. That’s how much gay and bisexual men make for every dollar earned by similarly-qualified heterosexual men.

— One out of every 25 complaints made about workplace discrimination comes from LGBT employees.

— 96%. That’s the percentage of Fortune 500 companies that have LGBT workplace protections who say such policies have boosted their businesses. Fortune 500 executives, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, have said such workplace policies boost productivity, increase retention rates and and attract talent.


—  Steve Ramos

ENDA passes U.S. Senate

Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 1.20.25 PMThe Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed the Senate 64–32 Thursday afternoon. Four senators were absent.

Republicans Orrin Hatch and John McCain were among the Republicans who voted for the bill that would forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Both Texas senators voted against the bill.

White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett encouraged the Senate to vote for the bill.

“A majority of Americans assume there is a prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace. There’s not, and that’s exactly why this is so important,” she wrote in a press release. “It’s not just civil rights advocates who support ENDA. Business leaders know that prohibiting employment discrimination is good for business. Inclusive workplaces attract the best and brightest employees, and improve their bottom line.”

GetEqual spokeswoman Heather Cronk wrote, “Today’s passage of ENDA is, indeed, a historic moment for our community and our allies.”

But she said the bill had flaws.

“The broad religious exemptions in the bill cemented into law the very biases that the legislation was intended to overcome,” she wrote.

The bill now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives. President Barack Obama has said he will sign the bill into law.

—  David Taffet

Obama makes pitch for gay rights bill


President Barack Obama

WASHINGTON — The Senate is set to vote Monday on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a day after President Barack Obama blogged in the Huffington Post, encouraging Congress to pass the measure.

Obama wrote that while Americans can’t lose their jobs because of race, religion, gender or disability, “in many states a person can be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” Yahoo News reported.

ENDA would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It’s offensive. It’s wrong,” Obama wrote. “And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and you love should never be a fireable offense.”

The same legislation failed by a single vote, 50-49, the last time it was considered by the Senate in 1996, the Washington Post reports. Along with 55 Democratic senators, the bill currently has the support of at least four Republicans.

—  Steve Ramos

Appeals court dismisses suit accusing AG’s office of anti-gay discrimination

Texas AG Greg Abbott

Greg Abbott

A state appeals court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit accusing Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office of anti-gay employment discrimination.

In February 2009, Vic Gardner resigned from his job at a Tyler call center run by the AG’s office, where he’d worked for about three years, alleging a hostile work environment.

Gardner received excellent performance reviews until an office costume party, where his supervisor concluded he was gay, according to his lawsuit. Once the supervisor determined Gardner was gay, he was repeatedly disciplined until he resigned.

In dismissing Gardner’s case, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals said Gardner presented no evidence he was dismissed from the job and not enough evidence of a hostile work environment. The court said Gardner presented no evidence he was demoted, lost job responsibilities or was given a choice of being fired or quitting.

—  David Taffet

Gay discrimination claim against Exxon advances; Resource Center sends letter


Tico Almeida

The Illinois Department of Human Rights has agreed to investigate a discrimination claim against ExxonMobil brought by the group Freedom to Work.

The Illinois department said the investigation would take up to a year.

Tico Almeida, founder of Freedom to Work, said his group brought the charges in Illinois because that state has some of the country’s strongest protections based on sexual orientation.

In May, the organization sent similar resumes to ExxonMobil for an open position. The difference was that one applicant was lesbian while the other was straight and slightly less qualified. The company contacted the straight woman and held the job open for her even when she didn’t respond. The more qualified lesbian candidate was never contacted.

Locally, Cece Cox, CEO of Resource Center Dallas, sent a letter this week to two ExxonMobil executives — Malcolm Farrant, vice president of human resources, and David Rosenthal, vice president of investor relations and board secretary. Last year, she met with them along with LGBT executives from Dallas-area Fortune 500 companies to discuss implementing nondiscrimination policies.

“As most of my subsequent inquiries to you have gone unanswered, I am writing today to see where things stand on the matters that were discussed,” she wrote.

She references the recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and bipartisan Senate committee approval of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act this week.

Cox’s full letter is below:

—  David Taffet

WATCH: 6 Texas activists arrested at ENDA protest in Boehner’s office

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 12.25.42 PM

Three members of GetEQUAL in Speaker John Boehner’s office.

Eight members of GetEQUAL were arrested outside the office of House Speaker John Boehner this morning, including six from Texas.

The group wants Boehner to move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to the House floor for a vote. The other two arrested were from Ohio, which also has no statewide LGBT employment protections.

According to Texas GetEQUAL organizer Michael Diviesti, those arrested were Tiffani Bishop, Austin; Koby Ozias, Corpus Christi; Carey Dunn, Austin; Erin Jennings, San Antonio; and Kaya Candia-Almanza and Cindy Candia. He said about 20 GetEQUAL members were in the room.

After speaking to staff members in Boehner’s office, they protested inside the office. When asked to leave, the continued their protest outside the office, where they were arrested.

Bishop was the first arrested.

The group called on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to add sexual orientation and gender identity to their equal employee opportunity statements.

“It’s clear that Speaker Boehner has absolutely zero intention of supporting or moving forward the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Sean Watkins, a gay Iraq War veteran and constituent of Speaker John Boehner, said in a statement issued by GetEQUAL.

Watch video of the eight in Boehner’s office below.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Gay Congressman Mark Pocan denounces Exxon from House floor

Screen shot 2013-06-05 at 3.35.55 PM

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., denounced ExxonMobil from the floor of the House of Representatives today. He referred to the vote in Dallas last week on a resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its employment nondiscrimination policy.

“The government shouldn’t be in business with companies that discriminate,” he said.

He said ExxonMobil has received more than $1 billion in government contracts over the last decade.

“BP doesn’t discriminate,” he said. “Chevron doesn’t discriminate. Shell Oil doesn’t discriminate, but ExxonMobil does and their anti-equality policies should start to hurt their bottom line.”

He said ExxonMobil’s policies demonstrate why we need a comprehensive Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

Pocan co-chairs the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

Watch the video of Pocan’s speech below.

—  David Taffet

Freedom to Work sues ExxonMobil for anti-LGBT discrimination


Tico Almeida

Freedom to Work, a national workplace discrimination organization, filed a complaint against Irving-based ExxonMobil today charging it with violating Illinois’ ban on anti-LGBT workplace discrimination.

The lawsuit comes one week ahead of ExxonMobil’s annual meeting in Dallas, where shareholders will again consider a resolution to add LGBT employees to the company’s nondiscrimination policy.

Two test resumes were submitted for a position with the company, according to the complaint. One was an LGBT applicant who was highly qualified for the position. Another was a less-qualified straight woman.

Exxon responded by treating the better-qualified LGBT applicant far worse than the less qualified non-LGBT applicant, the suit alleges. On three occasions, Exxon contacted the non-LGBT and less-qualified candidate for an interview, and Exxon even suggested that it would hold open the job for the non-LGBT applicant.

The better qualified LGBT candidate was never contacted by Exxon about the position.

“Exxon broke the law, defies industry standards and continues to betray the American people’s sense of fairness,” said Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work in a press release. “This case is one more reminder that Exxon stands virtually alone in the Fortune 100 in denying qualified gay and transgender Americans a fair shot to get a job based on their talents and hard work. Exxon must obey the Golden Rule and do onto others as they would want others to do onto them.”

ExxonMobil shareholder resolutions to add LGBT protections have been voted down every year since 1999. ExxonMobil is the only company that has ever received a negative score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. The company rescinded domestic partner benefits and discrimination protections for gay employees after Exxon and Mobil merged.

More coverage of the meeting in Friday’s Dallas Voice. Freedom to Work’s full press release is below.

—  David Taffet

Man appeals dismissal of suit alleging Texas AG fired him for being gay


Jason Smith

The case of a gay Tyler man who sued the Texas Attorney General’s office for employment discrimination comes before the Court of Appeals in Austin this week.

Vic A. Gardner worked for the AG’s child support division for about three years. He received excellent performance reviews until an office Halloween costume party, the suit alleges. When he attended dressed as a geisha girl, his supervisor determined he was gay.

Once his sexual orientation was assumed by the supervisor, he was repeatedly disciplined until he resigned in February, according to his attorney, Jason Smith of Fort Worth.

In a sworn affidavit, the supervisor admitted he had a religious objection to Gardner being gay.

“You are who you are, but try not to be so out,” Smith said his client was told.

Knowing Gardner’s father was a Baptist minister, the supervisor asked Gardner at one point how he could do that to his father.

In October 2010, a lower court judge ruled the AG had immunity from prosecution and dismissed the case. Gardner appealed in November 2010 but withdrew his appeal in January 2011.

Gardner’s new appeal is asking the court to order a jury trial. The AG contends all Gardner can do is ask for reinstatement. Smith said his client is entitled to lost wages and more.

—  David Taffet

5 GetEQUAL TX activists arrested for blocking traffic in Austin ENDA protest


Five GetEQUAL TX activists were arrested this evening for blocking traffic near the state Capitol while protesting for LGBT nondiscrimination in the workforce.

Holding a sign that read, “We Work Together,” the group blocked the intersection at 11th and Congress in Austin, calling for the Texas Senate to stop blocking the progress of SB 237, which was left pending in committee. This is the second set of arrests in as many weeks for activists protesting SB 237.

The Austin action was part of a new national GetEQUAL campaign that launched today to urge Congress to pass the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was recently reintroduced. In Washington, D.C., activists held light panels on the grounds of Congress, reading “PASS ENDA NOW.”

The campaign, “Workplace INclusion: Winning LGBT Workplace Protections (WIN),” kicks off a week of action across the country to draw attention to need for workplace protections for LGBT employees. The actions will end May 14, the anniversary of Bella Abzug’s Equality Act of 1974, which was the first piece of pro-LGBT legislation in the U.S.

“For LGBT Americans from California to Connecticut and from Alabama to Alaska, the need for federal workplace protections is clear,” said Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL. “We hear story after story after story of folks who are simply trying to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families — but who encounter harassment on the job, who are refused jobs because of who they are, or who face insurmountable options for promotion because of who they love. In America, anyone qualified for a job should be able to get and hold that job without fear of violence, harassment, or termination. We need Congress to act now!”

A Dallas rally is planned for Saturday from11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Dallas County Courthouse, 600 Commerce St., to educate voters on the importance of passing SB 237 before the Texas Legislature ends its session in three weeks.

—  Dallasvoice