Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Gavel to Gavel -- Discrimination Bad for Business

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Gavel to Gavel -- Discrimination Bad for Business

Article excerpt

If asked, most employers would tell you that they simply want an employee who can do the job. This would seem to be reasonable criteria for hiring an employee. Why then has it been necessary to enact laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace? The answer is that although for most employers it would be anathema today to use someone's personal status as a criteria for hiring and firing, there are those who have been unable to divest themselves of personal prejudices, and simply judge someone's ability on his or her performance, and not on his or her religion, national origin, color, sex (meaning gender), age, or physical prowess. Congress passed Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, specifically to prevent someone from using improper criteria to hire or fire. Congress remained pragmatic, however, and recognized that an employer could not be expected to hire someone for a job when that person simply could not fulfill basic requirements of the position and so carved out exceptions that any person must be able to do the basics of a job before he or she is hired or retained.

Lawmakers have now introduced the federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) to fight sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the workplace, specifically prohibiting discrimination in hiring or firing someone because he or she is or is not gay or lesbian. The law currently prohibits discrimination based on an employer's belief that an employee is not feminine or masculine enough, gender perception discrimination. ENDA provides protection so that no person could be hired or fired because of his or her sexual orientation, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Some opponents fear that the law will require employers to hire gays and lesbians, which is not true because the bill specifically bans any affirmative action policy that might benefit gays or lesbians and specifically exempts the military, religious organizations, and employers with fewer than fifteen employees, and would not be retroactive. Currently, for example, a religious organization can hire based on religion, even though it is otherwise illegal to discriminate based on one's religious beliefs, and ENDA would not change this exception based on sexual orientation.

Currently 29 states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, as do numerous cities, counties, political entities, and agencies. The ban against discrimination exists in places that one might not expect. San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Washington, D.C., (among others) all of which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, are fairly obvious, but other less obvious examples exist. For example, the Oklahoma attorney general has a policy of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation in hiring or firing, as do the states of New Mexico and Colorado, among others. …

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