Editorial: Protection against workplace discrimination simply a no-brainer

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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In the coming days, the U.S. Senate will vote on whether to pass a piece of legislation that would allow the LGBTQ community necessary protection in the workplace. In particular, the Senate will vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend employment discrimination protection to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Senate must pass such a proposal because it’s essential for the federal government to take a stance stating that performance on the job has nothing to do with personal preferences, but on the employee’s work alone.

Currently, in many states, employers and unions have the ability to use sexual orientation or gender identity as a reason to hire, fire, promote or compensate individuals. Members of the LGBTQ community are subjected to widespread discrimination because of their gender identities or sexual orientations and are not always evaluated based on their ability to efficiently perform their duties in the workplace.

The current Employment Non-Discrimination Act encompasses protections against discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability in an effort to make the workplace an environment where the value of an individual’s work is based on his or her ability to work and perform productively, not on one’s gender, race or sexual orientation.

Members of the LGBTQ community, along with the general workforce population, should be evaluated by employers on their ability to do a particular job, not on their personal preferences. If employees are able to perform their jobs well, they ought to be rewarded based on their work performance and nothing else.

Chances are good that this measure will pass through the Senate, but passing through the House of Representatives seems less likely. What Congress should consider is the recent monumental moves that have allowed the LGBTQ community more federal rights and privileges. The IRS and Treasury Department recognize same-sex couples filing joint federal taxes, and the Department of Health and Human Services also accommodates same-sex couples.

Enacting a federal law that would update the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would also correct the mismatched laws practiced by states across the nation. In Pennsylvania, the only laws that address sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in the workplace are an order prohibiting discrimination against public employees and a initiative to provide domestic partner benefits to state employees. Although this is a step further than other states, students and employees in Pennsylvania, as well as employees nationwide, still stand to benefit from federal legislation.

It is imperative for Congress to pass such a common sense piece of legislation that would create a fairer workplace in which employees are reprimanded for lacking work productivity, not because they are gay.

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