By Grant Beck, ERC Communications Officer
Despite the tremendous momentum of marriage equality throughout 2014, the new year presents a whole new set of challenges for the LGBT community. Chief among these challenges is the repeated attempts of state legislators to pass “right to discriminate” bills.
Several state legislatures have considered bills that would allow people and entities the ability to discriminate under the guise of religious freedom. In one headline-grabbing instance earlier this year, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill, only at the urging of advocacy groups and Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake, which would have allowed business owners the right to refuse service to certain customers based on religious convictions. (more…)
Yesterday, Equal Rights Center staff attended the U.S. Supreme Court’s oral argument for Young v. United Parcel Service, an employment discrimination case that will help to determine the scope of a pregnant employee’s right to receive accommodations in the workplace. Ms. Young, the petitioner in the case, worked as a driver for UPS. Ms. Young became pregnant, and due to medical complications resulting from her pregnancy, Ms. Young requested that UPS allow her to work temporarily in a light duty assignment in which she would not have to lift heavy packages. UPS denied her request and refused to allow Ms. Young to return to work, though UPS had granted light duty assignments to a variety of employees with medical conditions unrelated to pregnancy. Instead, UPS told Ms. Young that because her condition was caused by pregnancy, she was not eligible for the accommodation.
The Equal Rights Center urges the Supreme Court to uphold the intent of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to ensure that workplaces are equitable environments for pregnant workers by ruling in favor of Ms. Young.
The impact of housing discrimination stretches far deeper than the neighborhood an individual gets to call home. It can limit one’s access to health care, quality education and employment options. Residents of the District of Columbia benefit from one of the most comprehensive civil rights laws in the country. The D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977 prohibits discrimination based on 19 protected categories, including “source of income.” If you reside in the District, a landlord or housing provider is prohibited from discriminating against you based on the type of lawful funds used to pay your rent, including Housing Choice Vouchers.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, provides housing assistance to low-income individuals by paying a portion of their rent in privately owned properties. It is administered by local housing agencies throughout the country and serves approximately 1.5 million households. According to the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA), there are currently 10,500 families who are Housing Choice Voucher Program participants in the District alone, and thousands more are on the waiting list. By using a housing voucher to pay rent on fair market-rate housing, low-income families are not forced to choose between a homeless shelter and an overcrowded, outdated public housing complex, but can reside in a safe, desirable neighborhood.
Despite the clear prohibition on discrimination against voucher holders in the District, the Equal Rights Center (ERC) continues to receive numerous complaints from Housing Choice Voucher holders, and its survey investigations continue to find that discrimination against voucher holders remains a serious problem. (more…)
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…)
In 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…)
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…)
October 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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)