Know Your Rights at Work

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Greg Nivens

As we get ready to celebrate the Labor Day weekend holiday, Lambda Legal is launching the newest section of its “Know Your Rights” information hub, this time focusing on workplace rights for LGBT and HIV-positive people.

Greg Nevins, a Lambda Legal counsel and Workplace Fairness Project strategist based in the agency’s Atlanta office. said that workplace issues continue to be a major concern among those who call Lambda Legal’s Legal Help Desk. The new Know Your Rights Workplace site “will help people advocate for themselves as well as assist them if issues arise,” Nivens said.

He said the hub will soon be mobile-friendly and translated into Spanish. It includes legal and advocacy guidance on a wide array of issues, including what to do if you experience discrimination, what laws protect you, HIV discrimination in the workplace, what to do if you are fired, gender identity discrimination. job searches, immigrant rights, good company policies, how unions can help and same-sex spousal and partner benefits.

This is Lambda Legal’s third Know Your Rights hub. The other two are Know Your Rights: Teens and Young Adults, and Know Your Rights: Transgender.

—  Tammye Nash

Out & Equal to honor Parker, Welts

Mayor Annise Parker

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates will honor Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts at its Leadership Celebration on March 14 in San Francisco.

In October, Out & Equal held its week-long Workplace Summit at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. Because of rave reviews, the group plans to return in the next few years. Welts was among the speakers at the Dallas convention.

Now in its fifth year, the Leadership Celebration is a fundraising event that includes a hosted reception and dinner. Parker and Welts will be recognized as role models and inspirations in the movement to achieve equality in the workforce.

To attend the San Francisco event, register online.

The 2012 Workplace Summit will be in Baltimore on from Oct. 29-Nov 1.

—  David Taffet

President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

The Military Is Not Some Workplace Experiment Like Casual Fridays

Have you guys heard of this Stephen Colbert person? He seems to know a lot about how the military works! Just like John McCain, the man who never made a single military decision without giving the entire armed forces a chance to weigh in. I'm pretty sure that's how the Marines came up with their slogan "The few. The proud. The Marines." Everyone gets a say!


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Queerty

—  admin

2011 Buying for Workplace Equality Guide Released

Just in time for your Holiday shopping, today we released the 2011 version of the Buying for Workplace Equality guide. The guide offers  shoppers a perspective of how consumer based companies ranked on our annual Corporate Equality Index, which measures policies that guide workplace equality.

The guide breaks down products into easy to find categories and ranks companies into Green, Yellow and Red groups based on their scores. The system allows shoppers to pick products and companies that favor workplace equality and to avoid those that do not.

You can download the guide now at www.hrc.org/BuyersGuide. iPhone users can download the updated App to their phone as well.

Included in this year’s guide are estimated scores for companies that have repeatedly failed to respond to our workplace surveys. Visit our website to find out more about this years guide.

For those who want to do more to encourage companies to adopt fair workplace practices, both the web and iPhone versions of the guide now contain contact information for many businesses that are featured in the guide. Tools to reach out to companies are also available at: www.hrc.org/ConsumerAdvocacy.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Workplace Protections Lose in South Bend

TRANSGENDER EMPLOYMENT X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COMA proposal to ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in South Bend, Indiana failed by a 6-3 vote in the Common Council.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

New Survey Shows Majority Support for Equal Workplace Benefits

As we released our new Corporate Equalty Index yesterday, the Out & Equal Workplace Summit was kicking off in Los Angeles.  According to their recent survey, nearly four our of five – or 78% — of heterosexual adults agree that how an employee performs at his or her job should be the standard for judging an employee, not his or her sexual orientation. Also, three out of five – or 62% — of heterosexual adults agree that regardless of their sexual orientation, all employees are entitled to equal benefits on the job, such as health insurance for their partners or spouses.

When it comes to particular workplace benefits offered to spouses of married heterosexual employees, 74% of heterosexuals think both spouses and same-sex partners should receive leave for employees who experience the loss of a spouse/partner or close family member. Also, seven out of ten – or 70% – of heterosexual adults think both spouses and partners should receive leave rights for family and medical emergencies as outlined in the Family and Medical Leave Act. And, a majority, 63%, of heterosexuals also think both spouses and partners should receive untaxed health insurance benefits.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

Pushing for Workplace Protections in North Carolina

Last week, members of the Charlotte community and I met with the Legislative Correspondent of U.S. Representative Larry Kissell from the 8th District of North Carolina to talk about supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill to ban workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Kissell voted in favor of the the hate crimes law, which passed last year, and voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We were excited to meet with Kissell’s team to remind him of the importance of passing ENDA and let him know that our community cannot afford to take things for granted at this critical time in the fight for equality.

Our diverse group included Randy Floyd, Co-chair for the local HRC Steering Committee and Roberta Dunn, a leader in the local transgender community who sits on the steering committees of HRC and the Mecklenburg Gay and Lesbian Political Action Committee (MeckPAC).

Jennifer Roberts, the Chairwoman of the Board of County Commissioners for Mecklenburg County, was there with constituent and straight ally Jacqueline Galante.

Everyone at the meeting shared stories about workplace discrimination in Charlotte with Legislative Correspondent John Trippi. The staff in Kissell’s office were told about a transgender woman who worked as a mechanic for the city in the Department of Auto Maintenance that lost her job shortly after letting her supervisor know of her desire to begin transitioning. They also shared a story about a grade school teacher who was fired once parents got wind of her sexual orientation and called the principal.

Roberts spoke to the staff about the economics and family benefits of ENDA. She talked about Mecklenburg County passing an employment non-discrimination policy five years ago that did not protect transgender people. This past December, MeckPAC and Roberts teamed up to pass domestic partner benefits and this year they teamed with Mayor Anthony Foxx and City Manager Curt Walton to create a non-discrimination policy in Charlotte. They are still working to include gender identity in the policy.

Charlotte is an up and coming city and there have been great strides to improve the livelihood of the LGBT community, but there is still much more work to be done. I hope that everyone will contact their lawmakers tell them to support and pass ENDA.

Visit our Pass ENDA Now website to find out more about ENDA and contact your members of Congress at countdown2010.hrc.org.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

CONNECTICUT: Nine Dead In Workplace Massacre By Disgruntled Employee

Eight people were shot and killed this morning at a Manchester, Connecticut wholesale alcohol distributor, where a truck driver for the company opened fire on an office full of workers. The gunman is dead, but reports conflict over whether he was shot by police or took his own life.

Sources said Omar S. Thornton, 34, was a driver for Hartford Distributors and was described by a Teamsters Union official as a recent hire and a “disciplinary problem.” “The union was bringing him in to meet with the company to remedy the problem,” said John Hollis, a Teamsters official. “He started shooting.” Thornton shot a number of people and then shot himself with a .223 caliber semiautomatic rifle as police approached and is dead, sources said. Two people were shot outside the building and five were shot inside, police sources said. Hollis declined to describe the nature of the disciplinary problem, and he said he wasn’t certain if the meeting had taken place when the shooting started. A law enforcement source said Thornton had been suspected of stealing from the business.

Another sterling example of the Second Amendment in action!

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Partner denied sick leave by AT&T

Bryan Dickenson, left, and Bill Sugg hold hands in Sugg’s room at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson on Wednesday, Jan. 27. (Source:John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Despite 100% rating from HRC, company won’t allow gay man time off to care for ailing spouse

JOHN WRIGHT  |  News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg have been together for 30 years.

For the last 12 of those years, Dickenson has worked as a communications technician for Dallas-based AT&T.

After Sugg suffered a debilitating stroke in September, Dickinson requested time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act to care for his partner.

But AT&T is refusing to grant Dickenson the 12 weeks of leave that would be afforded to a heterosexual spouse under the act.

As a result, Dickenson is using vacation time so he can spend one afternoon a week at Sugg’s bedside at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson. But Dickenson fears that when his vacation runs out, he’ll end up being fired for requesting additional time off to care for Sugg. Dickenson’s attorney, Rob Wiley of Dallas, said he initially thought AT&T’s refusal to grant his client leave under FMLA was just a mistake on the part of the company. Wiley said he expected AT&T to quickly rectify the situation after he sent the company a friendly letter.

After all, AT&T maintains the highest score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks companies according to their treatment of LGBT employees. And just this week, HRC listed AT&T as one of its “Best Places to Work.”

But AT&T has stood its ground, confirming in a statement to Dallas Voice this week that the company isn’t granting Dickenson leave under FMLA because neither federal nor state law recognizes Sugg as his domestic partner.

“I really couldn’t be more disappointed with AT&T’s response,” Wiley said. “When you scratch the surface, they clearly don’t value diversity. I just think it’s an outright lie for AT&T to claim they’re a good place for gays and lesbians to work.”

Wiley added that he’s disappointed in HRC for giving AT&T its highest score. Eric Bloem, deputy director of HRC’s workplace project, said Thursday, Jan. 28 that he was looking into the matter. Bloem said a survey for the Corporate Equality Index asks companies whether they grant FMLA leave to same-sex couples, and AT&T replied affirmatively.

“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, so I don’t really want to make an official comment on it,” Bloem said.

Walt Sharp, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company has “a long history of inclusiveness in the workplace.”

“There are circumstances under which our administration of our benefits plans must conform with state law, and this is one of those circumstances,” Sharp said in a written statement. “In this case, neither federal nor state law recognizes Mr. Dickenson’s domestic partner with legal status as a qualifying family member for a federal benefit program. There is no basis for this lawsuit or the allegations contained in it and we will seek its dismissal.”

Sharp didn’t respond to a request for further comment.

Wiley said Sharp’s statement doesn’t make sense. No law prohibits the company from granting Dickenson an unpaid leave of absence, which is what he’s requesting. Wiley also noted that no lawsuit has been filed, because there isn’t grounds for one.

The federal FMLA applies only to heterosexual married couples, Wiley said. Some states have enacted their own versions of the FMLA, requiring companies to grant leave to gay and lesbian couples, but Texas isn’t one of them.

Wiley said the couple’s only hope is to somehow convince the company to do the right thing, which is why he contacted the media.

“At some point in time this just becomes really hateful that they wouldn’t have any compassion,” Wiley said of the company. “I think the recourse is to tell their story and let people know how AT&T really treats their employees.”

Through thick and thin

This isn’t the first time Dickenson and Sugg have endured a medical crisis.

Sugg, who’s 69 and suffers from congenital heart problems, nearly died from cardiac arrest shortly after the couple met in 1980.

At the time, Dickenson was a full-time student and didn’t have car. So he rode his bicycle from Garland to Parkland Hospital in Dallas every day to visit Sugg in the intensive care unit.

In an interview this week at the rehab facility, Sugg’s eyes welled up with tears as he recalled what a Parkland nurse said at the time – “If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what the hell love is.”

“And sure enough, it was,” Sugg said over the whirr of his oxygen machine, turning to Dickenson. “As long as I have you, I can get through anything.”

Dickenson said in addition to visiting Sugg each Wednesday afternoon, he wakes up at 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings so he can spend the day with Sugg at the rehab facility.

This past Christmas, Dickenson spent the night on the floor of Sugg’s room.
“That would have been our first Christmas separated, and I just couldn’t bear that, him being alone on Christmas,” Dickenson said.

The worst part of the whole ordeal was when he had to return to work after taking 13 days off following Sugg’s stroke, Dickenson said. Sugg didn’t understand and thought his partner had abandoned him for good.

“He called me over and over every night, begging me to please come see him,” Dickenson said. “And I said, ’Honey, you don’t understand, I had to go back to work to save my job.’

“That’s what really hurts about what they’ve put me through, not my pain and anguish, but his,” Dickenson said.

Dickenson said it was 3 a.m. on Sept. 22 when he rushed Sugg to the hospital. Doctors initially said it was “the worst sinus infection they’d ever seen,” but within 48 hours Sugg had suffered a stroke affecting his cerebellum.

Sugg lost the ability to swallow and his sense of balance. He’s still unable to walk and suffers from double vision.

Because he wasn’t out as gay at work, Dickenson initially told supervisors that his father was sick.

When he returned to work after 13 days at the hospital, Dickenson explained that his domestic partner was ill and he needed more time off. His supervisor managed to get him an additional 30 days of unpaid leave.

In the meantime, Dickenson phoned the company’s human resources department and asked whether he’d be eligible for leave under FMLA, which allows 12 weeks (or about 90 days) per year. Dickenson said he was told that since he lives in Texas, he wouldn’t be eligible.

Dickenson filled out the FMLA forms anyway and sent them to the company, but he never got any response.

When Dickenson returned to work, he asked to be reclassified as part-time employee, so he could spend more time with Sugg. His supervisor refused and told him his best bet was FMLA leave, even though he’d already been denied.

That’s when Dickenson contacted Wiley.

Sugg is scheduled return to the couple’s Garland home from rehab in about a week, but he’s still on a feeding tube and will require nursing care. With any luck, he’ll someday be able to walk again.

Sugg bragged that he was able to drink his first cup of coffee last week, and he’s looking forward to getting back to his hobby of raising African violets.

Dickenson said he knows of at least seven medical appointments he’ll have to arrange for Sugg once he returns home. He said his vacation time likely will run out by April, and he fears that if he loses his job, the medical expenses will eventually cause him to go broke.

But Dickenson, who’s 51, said he’s committed to taking care of Sugg, even if it means living on the street someday.

“When it runs out, I’ll be fired, and it really hurts to be in a situation like that, because I’ve worked very hard for AT&T,” Dickenson said. “We suffer now, but maybe other people in our shoes in the future, if they work for AT&T, they won’t suffer like we do.”

—  John Wright