The Sad Irony of a Lesbian Commissioner at EEOC
Posted by gansie on January 5, 2011
Just before Christmas, Chai Feldblum was confirmed for a full term as the first openly LGBT Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Obama’s choice for a woman in this role is key as more and more women enter the workplace, and as such, need the proper protections.
However, there is a sad irony in the appointment of Feldblum. For if she was discriminated against at work for being gay, she wouldn’t have any rights.
The EEOC enforces laws that make it illegal to discriminate in the workplace. Discrimination – whether during hiring, firing or promotions – can not be because of: “race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” (Source: EEOC)
What it lacks, however, is the ability to protect workers that are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. According to the Human Rights Campaign, a whopping 29 states allow legal firings if an employee is lesbian, gay or bisexual and 38 states allow the firing of transgender people.
With the much needed repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell behind us, shouldn’t the rest of the country finally decide that it is wrong to not allow LGBT Americans to become productive workers in this country? If the military, known for its conservative values, makes it illegal to fire LGBT citizens, than it is surely time for the private sector to follow its lead. And for Congress to enact the appropriate laws. (>>>Learn More about Employment Non-Discrimination Act)
This is also one more hurdle placed on women veterans. Besides the host of other issues that women veterans face when transitioning to the civilian workplace – such as unequal pay, as women and men are paid equally in the military – allowing lesbians to safely work in the military, and then be wrongly fired in the civilian world, is another setback.
While Felblum as a Commissioner of the EEOC does not have any power to make laws, she does have a pulpit. And as a gay woman she should make it her priority to advance the cause to end LGBT discrimination in the workplace.