Today, President Obama announced that he will soon sign an executive order banning employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors and subcontractors. The announcement follows years of inaction by Congress to prevent such discrimination in the workplace. The proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make it unlawful for employers nationwide to harass or fire an employee based on gender identity or sexual orientation, passed the Democrat-dominated Senate, but was held up in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. President Obama’s anticipated executive order could protect up to sixteen (16) million workers and would not be dependent upon any action by Congress.
In 1964 Congress passed, and President Johnson signed into law, Public Law 88-352 (78 Stat. 241), otherwise known as the “Civil Rights Act of 1964.” The provisions of the Civil Rights Act forbade discrimination on the basis of sex and race in hiring, promoting, and firing. It is the most common legal basis for affected employees and other citizens to protect their rights in civil lawsuits for employment discrimination and policy brutality against qualifying employers and public entities. However, today, fifty (50) years later, it is still legal to fire an employee purely based on his/her sexual orientation or gender identity in thirty-two (32) states.
Some states and municipalities have taken matters into their own hands to ban discrimination in employment and housing. Our own Broward County, Florida has been on the progressive side of history in taking the lead to prohibit such discrimination against its citizens. In 1995, the Broward County Human Rights Ordinance was passed. The Ordinance protects citizens from discrimination in housing, in employment and in public accommodations. In January 1999, Broward County passed its domestic partnership law, a piece of legislation that extended spousal-like benefits not only to county employees, but to all employees of entities doing business with Broward County.
The employment section of our own City of Fort Lauderdale’s website begins with the following statement:
AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY AND AFFIRMATIVE ACTION EMPLOYER
All applicants receive consideration for employment without regard to age, ancestry, color, marital status, sexual orientation, national origin, irrelevant physical disability, political affiliation, race, religious creed, sex or other non-merit factors (except as limited by law, Personnel Rules, Collective Bargaining Agreements, or bona fide occupational disqualifications).
The attorneys at the firm of Santucci Priore, P.L. have been proudly serving South Florida’s LGBT community for most of our legal careers, including matters involving employment litigation, business law, trademark law, copyright law and entertainment law – and also consulting businesses on compliance with employment laws.
Please watch the progress of this proposed executive order, and any action on the part of Congress in the coming weeks, and report the progress to our blog in the comments section below. Your thoughts, comments, opinions and reports are welcome and encouraged.
Michael I. Santucci
Santucci Priore, P.L.
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