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For Civil Minds Blog

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…)

The “Reality behind the Headlines”

Posted on June 26th, 2014 by

News headlines

By Melvina Ford, ERC Executive Director

I have apparently reached that age when you start to have friends with children in college or on their way there. Perhaps that’s why I’ve started paying more attention to who is speaking at what college commencement, whether my life (20 years post-graduation) measures up to the inspiring addresses, and what enduring messages I should be teaching my far from college bound 4 year old.

This year, I was enthused by the remarks of Attorney General Eric Holder at Morgan State University’s commencement ceremony on May 17, 2014:

[W]e ought not find contentment in the fact that these high-profile expressions of outright bigotry seem atypical and were met with such swift condemnation. Because if we focus solely on these incidents – . . . – we are likely to miss the more hidden, and more troubling, reality behind the headlines.  . . . [T]he greatest threats do not announce themselves in screaming headlines. They are more subtle. They cut deeper. And their terrible impact endures long after the headlines have faded and obvious, ignorant expressions of hatred have been marginalized. (more…)

Celebrating the ERC’s Testers

Posted on June 25th, 2014 by

Melvina Ford

ERC Executive Director Melvina Ford and Testing and Special Projects Program Manager Kristen Barry listen to suggestions from ERC testers.

By Melissa Rothstein, Deputy Director of the ERC

Testing is one of the Equal Rights Center’s (ERC) foremost activities, enabling us to identify and quantify discrimination that may otherwise go undetected and/or unaddressed. This work could not be done without the commitment and support of our diverse tester pool.

On June 25th, the ERC held a tester appreciation event to recognize the contribution of our testers, allow for them to meet each other and new ERC Executive Director Melvina Ford, and to provide a forum for their questions and suggestions.

ERC testers are trained and supervised by ERC staff to gather objective information about their interaction with the tested entity, often to be used as a comparison with a “matched’ tester who is similar to them in every respect except the variable being tested.  Through testing, the ERC can identify discrimination that may not be readily apparent to an individual, such as prospective tenants being provided different information about availability, rent price, costs and fees, specials and incentives offered, and application requirements.   Testing results are used for a variety of purposes, including quality control of a housing provider or other entity, enforcement of fair housing and other civil rights laws, and quantitative data for policy reform. (more…)

President Obama to Sign Executive Order Barring Federal Contractors from Discriminating against LGBT Workers

Posted on June 16th, 2014 by

Today, the White House announced that President Obama will sign an executive order that extends employment protections for LGBT individuals who work for federal contractors. The move comes months after the U.S. Senate passed the oft-delayed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and Speaker John Boehner announced that the legislation would not be brought to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

According to MetroWeekly, it is unclear as to when the president will sign the order; however it seems likely that it will happen before the end of the month as the president will be attending the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT gala in New York City tomorrow, and the White House’s annual LGBT Pride Month reception is scheduled for June 30. (more…)

Bad for Business – LGBT Workers Subject to Rampant Discrimination in the Workplace

Posted on May 30th, 2014 by

By Sarah Pauly, ERC Fair Employment Manager

A recent report highlights the urgent need to pass laws to ensure equal employment opportunity for LGBT workers. The report, “Broken Bargain: Unchecked Discrimination against LGBT Workers,” sheds light on the widespread harassment and discrimination that LGBT workers face on the job.*

Though the Senate’s passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) during November of 2013 was an exciting step forward towards enacting explicit federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBT workers, the legislation has stalled in the House. House Speaker John Boehner has publically stated that he believes that ENDA would be bad for business.

Fair employment practices walk hand-in-hand with smart business. The ERC works with a wide range of corporate partners who recognize that preventing harassment and discrimination in the workplace strengthens their company. Businesses that provide equal opportunity to LGBT workers hire the most qualified applicants without regard to a candidate’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Harassment and discrimination create unhappy workplaces and companies that tolerate such behavior face higher staff turnover rates.

Exxon would do well to learn this lesson. For the 15th year in a row, its shareholders have voted down a resolution to protect Exxon’s own employees from sexual orientation discrimination.

*Report authored by the Movement Advancement Project, the Center for American Progress, Freedom to Work, and the Human Rights Campaign, in partnership with the National Center for Transgender Equality and Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.

Final Buzzer for LA Clippers Owner

Posted on April 30th, 2014 by

By Melvina Ford, Executive Director of the Equal Rights Center

As the stories of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist rant against African Americans attending his team’s games continue to dominate headlines coast to coast, the real story for civil rights advocates is not what he said on the tape, but how he has treated the thousands of tenants and applicants looking for a decent place to live in one of his properties over the last 30 years.

According to Forbes, Sterling has a current net worth of roughly $1.9 billion, the primary sources of which being his ownership of the LA Clippers organization, and the other being the thousands of apartments he purchased primarily in Southern California over the past several decades.

In his keynote address at the 13th Annual D.C. Fair Housing yesterday—co-hosted by the Equal Rights Center—Mayor Vincent Gray alluded to Sterling’s recent comments, but provided context to show how incidents such as this remain as a part of a pattern of deeply entrenched, institutional discriminatory treatment against many populations.

In 2003, Sterling was sued by the Housing Rights Center in LA and multiple tenants. The complaint alleged that Sterling stated he didn’t want to rent to Latinos because, “Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building”, and “black tenants smell and attract vermin.” According to a sworn affidavit submitted by one of his managers, Sterling stated that he preferred Korean-American tenants, because he believed they would “live in whatever conditions he gives them and still pay the rent without complaint.” (more…)

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