Thursday, March 04, 2010
In Virginia, employee discrimination is not only the norm, it’s also the law — or lack thereof — in this case. Currently, the state of Virginia has no laws protecting state employees from discrimination in the workplace. Although former Governors of Virginia issued executive orders guaranteeing freedom from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, marital status, veteran status, sexual orientation or disability, current Governor Bob McDonnell has not reissued this order. He claims that the orders are a matter for the state’s General Assembly, but employee rights watchers in Virginia speculate that the governor’s refusal has to do with the inclusion of sexual orientation.
For the fourth year in a row, the Virginia General Assembly has voted down the freedom from discrimination order despite polling that showed nearly all Virginians were in favor of protection from workplace discrimination for gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual employees. Clearly, McDonnell and Virginia’s other politicians have no idea that it is 2010 and that 30 other states protect their workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. So rather than include sexual orientation in the order, all state employees could be subject to employee discrimination, potentially creating a hotbed of political and legal issues for the state. Gay leaders and human rights activists have picked up this story, and outraged editorials have appeared frequently since the beginning of February.
Employee discrimination on any basis is thought to be an issue that state governments should help prevent, not perpetuate. Recent discrimination lawsuits have hit companies allowing bigotry where it hurts, like the $500,000 sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit slapped on Delta Sand and Gravel of Montrose, Colorado. Filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the lawsuit protected a harassed woman as well as her coworkers who wanted to serve as witnesses to her discrimination. Elsewhere, companies AIG and British Airways have been the subject of discrimination lawsuits as well.
So, as it stands right now, Virginia has opened the door for behavior that’s illegal nearly everywhere else. Any government that does not protect its employees in the workplace certainly isn’t doing its job.