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For Civil Minds Blog

Making Amends with Migrant Americans

Posted on November 21st, 2014 by

By Stephanie Gonzalez Palumbo, Immigrant Rights Program Manager

In a primetime address last night, President Obama announced the executive action that he and his administration will take in lieu of congressional legislation regarding immigration reform.

As outlined by the president, this action is composed of three tiers: increased border enforcement, enhanced visa options for highly skilled workers and a delayed deportation option for nearly 4 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.

The third tier of this executive action deals with what has been the most contentious issue surrounding American immigration reform in the past three decades. The president’s executive action presents an opportunity for an estimated 4 million undocumented immigrants—parents of children who are citizens or permeant residents of the U.S. and have lived in the U.S. for more than five years—to come out from the shadows and be relived of the fear of deportation. Those who meet these qualifications must register, pay a fee, submit a criminal background check, and immediately begin paying taxes. The president was emphatic that this action is neither amnesty nor a path to citizenship. The action will last three years, or pending passed congressional legislation. (more…)

New Toolkit Educates Veterans with Disabilities to be Self-Advocates for Accessible Housing

Posted on November 11th, 2014 by

Veterans toolkitIn honor of Veterans Day, the ERC released a new toolkit that will assist veterans with disabilities self-advocate for accessible housing. This toolkit becomes a part of the wealth of ERC resources available to assist individuals in self-advocating for themselves in housing.

The Veterans with Disabilities Toolkit highlights the rights to accessible afforded to veterans with disabilities under Title XIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, known as the Fair Housing Act (FHA). This toolkit provides: an overview of the rights provided by the federal FHA, information on accessible design requirements of multifamily development, how to request a reasonable modification or accommodation from property owners or managers and answers to frequently asked questions.

There are an estimated 21.8 million veterans living in the U.S. According to government officials, 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for service-related disabilities, more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War. (more…)

The Continued Struggle of Hispanics for Fair Housing

Posted on October 14th, 2014 by

By Stephanie Gonzalez Palumbo

Hispanic Heritage Month is a special time for reflection on the struggles, strides and successes the Hispanic community has faced over the years, as they weave a colorful, prominent identity in the diverse fabric of America.

One of the most prominent struggles many Hispanics continue to face, even decades after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, is unlawful housing discrimination. Erroneous perceptions of Hispanics and immigrants, often limit their housing choices. While the terms Hispanic and immigrant are not synonymous, they are often conflated by housing providers seeking to hinder members of both groups from accessing fair housing. Overt forms of housing discrimination, such as a housing provider’s outright refusal to show a rental unit or house because of the home seeker’s perceived race or ethnicity, continue to occur among many groups, including Hispanics. However, it may be the subtle, less obvious forms of discrimination that demand more of our attention, especially in the larger context of a nation conflicted on how to address immigration reform. (more…)

“Expect. Employ. Empower.”

Posted on October 6th, 2014 by

Office employee with hearing aidOctober is National Disability Employment Awareness month, and this year’s theme from the U.S. Department of Labor is “Expect. Employ. Empower.”

Despite the fact that nearly one out of every five Americans has a disability—a total of 56.7 million people—the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is more than double that of the national average.  Fostering an office culture that promotes a diversity of talent, qualification and ability has been shown to boost morale, productivity and profitability for all employees.

There are simple steps employers can take to make their work environments more inclusive for individuals with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, workplaces are required to provide reasonable accommodations or “any modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables a qualified person with a disability to apply for or perform a job”. This could range from permitting a service animal into the workplace or providing an employee a more flexible schedule, to making entrances wider or providing handrails to make office spaces more accessible. (more…)

Equal Rights for Equal Sexes

Posted on October 3rd, 2014 by

Map

image courtesy of equalrightsamendment.org

By Sasha Robinson, ERC Intern

As we celebrate the 90th anniversary of the introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)—one of this century’s most important legislative measures for gender equality—it is baffling that we are still three states shy from national ratification into the Constitution.

Since its introduction in 1923, the ERA has been presented to every Congress in hopes of ratification. The amendment was written with the intent to eliminate discrimination based on sex. Section 1 of the ERA states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The protections afforded under the ERA include: sex equality written in law as a basic principle, allowing the courts to advocate for full equality with no obstruction, and giving women the rights they are entitled as equal citizens of this country. Currently, some state constitutions do have legal protection against sex discrimination, but only the federal ERA can provide complete protection for both men and women. (more…)

Muslims Continue to Face Employment Discrimination

Posted on August 5th, 2014 by

Young Muslim student

By Nadia Laher, ERC Intern

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 this summer, we are also presented with an opportunity for reflection on how far America has truly come in the long march toward equality. Our nation has progressed an enormous distance, undoubtedly; yet there is still a long way to go. It seems that prejudice has not disappeared so much as expanded its targets and now Muslims bear a large part of the burden of discrimination.

On September 11, 2001, Americans were confronted with the deadliest-ever terrorist attack on U.S. soil, wrought by radical Islamist group al-Qaeda. Thousands lost their lives and many more were injured; their families grieved, and the nation grieved with them. After 9/11, many Americans—spurred by an increasingly sensationalist and reactionary media—began to fear the Islamic faith and all those associated with it. In the worst cases, that fear turned to hate, and violent attacks on Muslims—and those mistakenly identified as Muslims—sharply rose. More than ten years later, the effects of 9/11 are still readily apparent: in the form of memorials and an unceasing sense of grief, but also in the form of discrimination against Muslims.

Although Muslims comprise less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, since 2001, more than 20 percent of religion-based discrimination charges brought to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have been from Muslim complainants. Discrimination against a job applicant or employee based on religion is illegal; yet recent studies by University of Connecticut (UConn) sociologists indicate a pattern of religious discrimination in hiring in regions of New England and the Southern United States, with Muslims being the most heavily targeted. (more…)

The ADA: Changing Lives for 24 Years

Posted on July 26th, 2014 by

In an op-ed written for The Hill earlier this month, Judith Heumann, Special Advisor on International Disability Rights for the U.S. State Department, explained the global impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):

“With the passage of the ADA, the United States became the first country in the world to adopt national civil rights legislation banning discrimination against people with disabilities in the public and private sector. People from around the world who travelled here saw the changes our country was making and were amazed. We had become the gold standard, and other countries aspired to be just like us.”

The ADA is a comprehensive civil-rights law signed by George H. W. Bush in 1990. The law was intended to “assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.” In addition to ensuring equal access to public services and public accommodations, the ADA provides protections to people with disabilities in the workplace and certain educational settings. The enactment of the ADA was an assurance for those with disabilities that they too were free to demand the right to equality, independence and freedom.

For 24 years, the ADA has been an enforcement mechanism by which people with disabilities have ensured their equal access of public accommodations, education, government services, health care and many other sectors of society to ensure independent living.  Successes in the 24th year of the ADA have included: (more…)

A Step towards Equality: Meeting Mia Macy at President Obama’s Signing Ceremony

Posted on July 21st, 2014 by

Mia Macy. plaintiff Macy v. Holder

Mia Macy (left), plaintiff in the landmark Macy v. Holder, with ERC Fair Employment Program Manager Sarah Pauly outside of the East Room of the White House.

By Sarah Pauly, ERC Fair Employment Manager

Mia Macy (plaintiff in Macy v. Holder) and I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday at President Obama’s signing ceremony for an executive order that extends employment discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers.

The ceremony marked the culmination of efforts from advocates like Ms. Macy, who have worked for years towards this milestone.  Ms. Macy came into the national spotlight after she filed a complaint alleging that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms discriminated against her due to her gender identity.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found in her favor in a landmark decision that held that employment discrimination based on gender identity is an illegal form of sex discrimination.

At the ceremony, Ms. Macy explained that her role as the plaintiff in Macy v. Holder has not been easy. Since the case began, she has submitted over 400 job applications and received only three interview requests because, she believes, information regarding her role in the case is readily available on the internet to potential employers. (more…)

Fifty years after the Civil Rights Act

Posted on July 2nd, 2014 by

By Melvina Ford, ERC Executive Director

Freedom SummerFifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson sat in the East Room of the White House surrounded by an eclectic group of United States legislators, pen poised, to sign one of the most significant pieces of American legislation in the 20th Century. But it took much more than the simple arc of Johnson’s pen to bring the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to life, and—decades after the ink has dried—the question as to whether we have achieved the equality promised in the law remains.

The Civil Rights Act also required enormous individual effort in Washington to make its way through Congress. President John F. Kennedy, who had introduced the legislation, had been assassinated in November 1963. His death, coupled with President Johnson’s subsequent championing of the late president’s landmark bill, gave the bill much needed momentum. The singular efforts of U.S. Senators in ending an opposition filibuster on the bill in the Senate, and the skillful legal maneuvering of Supreme Court Justice William Brennan to ensure that the nation’s highest court did not impede the bill’s progress also played critical roles in the bill’s passage. (more…)

ERC and Freedom to Work Release Report Revealing Federal Contractor Hiring Bias Against LGBT Applicants

Posted on July 1st, 2014 by

Report CoverIn response to concerns regarding federal contractor discrimination against LGBT job applicants, the Equal Rights Center (ERC) and Freedom to Work—a national organization committed to banning workplace harassment and career discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender Americans—launched a testing-based investigation of eight federal contractors throughout the country.

The investigation found that when applying to work for federal contractors, LGBT applicants were 23 percent less likely to receive a call-back than their non-LGBT counterpart, even when the LGBT applicant was more qualified than the non-LGBT applicant.

“The results of this investigation show that LGBT applicants face different and adverse treatment when seeking employment with federal contractors, even when compared with less-qualified candidates,” said Melvina Ford, executive director of the ERC. “Despite significant progress in advancing civil rights and equality, employment discrimination remains a persistent barrier for the LGBT community.”

Eight federal contractors were selected for testing: AmerisourceBergen Corp, The Babcock & Wilcox Co., ExxonMobil, Fluor Corp., General Electric Co., L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., Supreme Group Holding SARL, and URS Corp.  Seven of these contractors were selected because their own internal employment policies allowed discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. ExxonMobil was selected for testing because shareholders have repeatedly voted down a resolution to protect LGBT workers from discrimination. (more…)

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