Equality North Carolina Celebrates New Discrimination Protections for State Employees
The following is a press release from Equality NC. It is important to note that this victory provides protection for all members of the LGBTQ community, although Trangendered people are still provisionally protected. More work is needed to include permanent protections for all of us. As a gay man, I stand by those who are transgendered and support a permanent plan to protect arguably the most vulnerable members of our community.
Equality North Carolina announced today a significant victory in its campaign to end legal discrimination in our state. The 2008 edition of the State Personnel Manual, which covers most state employees, now includes a prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
"This is a big step forward for equal rights and justice in North Carolina," said Ian Palmquist, Executive Director. "Now state employees will be afforded the same protections that so many of our state's private companies offer their employees."
"North Carolinians value fairness and are opposed to the state or any other employer denying the basic right to work free from discrimination."
Equality NC Foundation lobbied the State Personnel Commission and the Governor's office on behalf of the policy. The effort grew out of the group's work to pass legislation addressing this issue in the 2007 legislative session.
When the State Personnel Commission first considered the issue last summer, their proposed language covered only sexual orientation. Equality NC was successful in advocating for the policy to be expanded to ensure that gender identity or expression were covered before final adoption.
Palmquist recognized the contributions of many allies in securing the policy change, including Sen. Charlie Albertson, Rep. Paul Luebke, and Rep. Larry Womble, the primary sponsors of the related legislation; Governor Mike Easley; Thomas Wright, the head of the Office of State Personnel, and his staff; and the members of the State Personnel Commission.
The change is limited in some ways because the additional categories were added by executive branch policy, not by legislative amendment of the statute governing state personnel. Enforcement of the policy is left to each state department, rather than being managed by the Office of State Personnel, which addresses discrimination on race, religion, sex and other categories. In addition, the policy could be easily changed or removed by a future administration.
Equality North Carolina will continue to push the legislature to put the new policy into the statue, ensuring clear and uniform enforcement, and covering additional state workers.
Despite those limitations, Palmquist says the policy provides real protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state employees who may fear workplace discrimination. The policy will discourage discrimination and provide a way for employees to seek redress when they do experience discrimination.
"As we celebrate this victory, we also continue our work to ensure these protections are securely written into law for state employees and all North Carolina workers," said Palmquist. "Like most North Carolinians, we look forward to a day when all employees will be judged by their qualifications and performance, and not based on irrelevant characteristics like their sexual orientation or gender identity."
You can sign up here for Equality NC Action Network.
Categories: ENC Equality+NC Politics LGBTQ tolerance anti-discrimination NC+State+Government