Press Room

February 13, 2004

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HRC Urges Federal Office Responsible for Claims of Workplace Bias to Continue Investigating Sexual O

U.S. Office of Special Counsel Appears To Be Retreating from Long-Established Policy of Investigating and Prosecuting Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign urged the office responsible for investigating and prosecuting federal workplace discrimination to continue looking into those claims of sexual orientation-based discrimination. HRC voiced strong concerns with reports that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is retreating from its long-established policy of investigating and enforcing disciplinary action against sexual orientation-based employment discrimination against federal workers.

"The federal government has a long-established practice of making employment decisions based on how well people can do their jobs, not on their sexual orientation or other factors," said HRC President Cheryl Jacques. "President Bush has spoken time and again about the importance of respect and tolerance. Make no mistake, there is neither respect nor tolerance in robbing hard-working individuals of their workplace security."

The OSC removed references to sexual orientation-based discrimination from its complaint form, the OSC basic brochure, training slides and a two-page flier entitled "Your Rights as a Federal Employee." The OSC also removed from its website a press release issued by the OSC in June 2003 that announced the settlement of a case involving discrimination based on sexual orientation against an applicant to the Internal Revenue Service.

The law, 5 USC 2302(b)(10), prohibits discrimination against federal employees or job applicants on the basis of off-duty conduct that does not affect job performance. Although there is no explicit reference to sexual orientation in the statute, it has long been interpreted to include sexual orientation. Executive Order 13087 - issued May 28, 1998 - reaffirmed that position. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management continues to assert that the government has interpreted statute [2302(b)(10)]"to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Sexual orientation means homosexuality, bisexuality or heterosexuality."

"It would be reprehensible for the government to turn the clock back on this progress for basic fairness - progress that has the solid support of the American people," added Jacques.

A Gallup Poll in May 2003 showed that 88 percent of respondents believe that gays and lesbians should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities.

Private employers have long recognized that eliminating discrimination and harassment against gay people in the workplace leads to a happier, more productive work force. A total of 360 companies in the Fortune 500 - or 72 percent - include sexual orientation in their corporate EEO policies, according to HRC WorkNet, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's workplace project.

For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/worknet.

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