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LABOR EXCHANGE ARTICLE ON

THE SEXUAL ORIENTATION DISCRIMINATION
PANEL DISCUSSION



submitted by Denise Sudell, Attorney-Advisor
Office of the Solicitor, Division of Civil Rights

As part of the Departmentís commemoration of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in June, Human Resources Director Tali Stepp and Annabelle Lockhart, Director of the Departmentís Civil Rights Center (CRC), participated in a panel discussion regarding the right of DOL employees to be free from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The panel was co-sponsored by AFGE Local 12 and Labor-GLOBE, the Departmentís organization of Gay, Lesbian, Or Bisexual Employees; Michael Durgin, Labor-GLOBE treasurer, and Larry Drake, Local 12 executive vice-president, introduced the two OASAM managers to the audience.

Federal employees in general are protected from sexual orientation-based discrimination by Executive Order 13087, issued by President Clinton on May 28, 1998. However, as Lockhart pointed out, DOL was "in the forefront" in assuring equal opportunity for all workers, including gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals: the Department issued a revised Equal Employment Opportunity(EEO) Policy Statement in August 1994 that barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against any DOL employee, and provided that complaints alleging sexual orientation discrimination would be processed in the same manner as other EEO complaints filed by employees of the Department. During the same year, DOL signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with Local 12 and the National Council of Field Labor Locals (NCFLL), AFGE, AFL-CIO. Those MOUs, which are still in effect, provide that sexual orientation discrimination is prohibited at DOL, and that employees who believe that they have been subjected to such discrimination may file either a grievance through the contractual procedure, or an EEO complaint with CRC. Stepp pointed out that all vacancy announcements issued by DOL must now state that the Department does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. She further noted that her office conducts spot checks to ensure that this requirement is being followed on both internal and external vacancy announcements.

Why is such protection necessary? As Lockhart pointed out, a report, "Taking Americaís Pulse II," issued in May of this year by the National Conference for Community and Justice, indicated that 50 percent of the respondents to a recent survey believed that gay men and lesbians were subjected to the greatest amount of discrimination in this country. Additionally, audience members reported instances of unfair or hostile treatment because of sexual orientation.

Both Stepp and Lockhart emphasized that they were interested in receiving feedback from employees regarding how the Department can better serve and protect employees of differing sexual orientations. Initiatives under consideration include expansion of diversity training and creation of an appeal process for sexual orientation-based complaints (at present, because no Federal statute bars sexual orientation discrimination, complainants have no right to pursue such complaints beyond DOL).

Further information is available on Labornet, from CRC at 202/219-6362, from Steppís office at 202/219-6551, or from the Civil Rights Officer in each DOL region.

Photo from DOL's Pride 2000 Event
At DOL's Pride 2000 Event

(Left to Right) Labor-GLOBE's Diane Herz, Annabelle Lockhart (Director of the Department's Civil Rights Center), AFGE Local 12 VP Larry Drake, OASAM Human Resource Center Director Tali Stepp, Labor-GLOBE's Michael Durgin



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