Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Washington Post: Rooting out bias in the workplace

The Washington Post

First Published Jun 18 2014 07:49 am • Last Updated Jun 18 2014 04:50 pm

The courts have made 2014 a year of rapid progress on gay and lesbian rights. Now President Obama is pitching in. That leaves Congress as the only branch that has yet to act.

Mr. Obama announced Monday that he will sign an executive order barring federal contractors, which employ about 20 percent of the national workforce, from discriminating against gay, lesbian and transgender people in their workplaces. The news was long overdue: The president promised to sign such an order in his 2008 campaign. In a way it is encouraging that Mr. Obama moves strongly on gay and lesbian rights during election years, because it indicates that a movement that long struggled to gain a foothold in public opinion is succeeding.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Federal rules already prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion and sex. Sexual orientation and gender identity have been glaring exceptions. Yes, government contractors generally have their own nondiscrimination rules, so the immediate, practical effect of this executive order may be small. But that merely suggests that compliance won’t be difficult, not that the order is unnecessary. The status quo, a pointedly incomplete nondiscrimination policy, is flatly unfair. Besides, assurances from private companies have neither the certainty nor force of law that federal action brings. The federal government has stepped in to ensure the civil rights of other categories of people who have suffered historical discrimination. Gays, lesbians and transgender people deserve the same consideration.

In fact, federal policymakers should be much more ambitious. Mr. Obama’s reason for waiting to sign this executive order is that he would have preferred comprehensive nondiscrimination policy, which only Congress can approve. Though he was wrong to wait so long, he was not wrong that legislation — covering all workplaces, not just those in business with the federal government — is the right goal. Some states have nondiscrimination laws that cover sexual orientation. Some do not, so a person can still be fired for no other reason than being gay. A bill to make nondiscrimination policy clear and consistent, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), passed the Senate last year, but the House has failed to act on it.

Critics say that passing ENDA would invite lawsuits. Yet states with nondiscrimination laws that protect gays and lesbians have not seen a massive uptick in filings. Besides, prejudice in the workplace is so pernicious that assertive federal policy is warranted. It is Congress’ turn to act.




Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.