There are 24 states plus Washington, D.C., that bar job discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation, while 12 also ban job bias against state employees based on gender identity, according to Georgia Equality.
HB 427 would also bring the state in line with the nondiscrimination practices of Athens, Atlanta, Clarkston, College Park, Decatur, Doraville, East Point, Macon, Savannah and Tybee Island. Georgia counties that have nondiscrimination policies in place are Athens-Clarke County, DeKalb and Fulton, said State Rep. Karla Drenner, sponsor of the bill. A survey of 450 Georgians taken Jan. 28 – Feb. 2, 2013, by the Schapiro Group shows 79 percent of Georgians support the legislation.
What the bill WOULD do:
• Amend the state Fair Employment Practices act to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
• Put Georgia’s employment policies in line with major Georgia employers including Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola, United Parcel Service, Wal-Mart, SunTrust and Newell Rubbermaid.
• Provide protections to LGBT people working in state universities and colleges.
• Provide clear instructions to agencies, supervisors and managers on how to prevent discrimination in public employment. “This would also help the state avoid litigation defending against discriminatory practices,” Drenner testified.
In December, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Vandy Beth Glenn, who was fired from her job as a legislative editor for the Georgia General Assembly for being transgender. Glenn was fired in 2007 and then sued the state, winning after a four-year costly battle for the state.
What the bill WOULD NOT do:
• Mandate quotas.
• The bill does not address private employers nor does it effect K-12 employment, Drenner said.
• It would not provide “additional or special remedies” in the code other than adding sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Treating LGBT employees fairly is simply better for business,” Drenner said in a prepared statement. “The Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act would also ensure that Georgia State Colleges and Universities are competitive with major research institutions in attracting and retaining the best and brightest researchers, students and administrators to study, work and develop new products, industries and jobs in Georgia.”
“A lot of thanks goes to the bi-partisan first six signers – Reps. Wendell Willard, Mike Jacobs, Stacey Abrams, Rusty Kidd and Simone Bell. I want to particularly recognize and thank one of our newest legislators Rep Keisha Waites for working so hard to secure many of the original 67 sponsors of the bill. It would have been hard to do without her help. We hope their constituents will let them know how much we appreciate their leadership on this bill.”
Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, praised Drenner and her fellow lawmakers for supporting the bill.
“Georgia state law currently provides no protections for LGBT people, resulting in unfair treatment and many costly lawsuits,” Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham in a statement.
“The victorious case in 2011 of transgender woman Vandy Beth Glenn who was wrongfully fired from her job at the Capitol is one example for the need for legislation to prevent these cases from coming up in the first place.
“While this legislation does not address private employment in Georgia, it would provide clear instructions to agencies, supervisors and employees to prevent discrimination in public employment and set the tone for the rest of the state’s business sector,” Graham added.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, is partnering with Georgia Equality and local lawmakers to help ensure the bill moves forward. Graham said today several national organizations have joined the fight for Georgia’s LGBT state workers.
“HRC is only one of numerous organizations who are actively helping us with this legislation,” Graham told GA Voice.
“For the past several years, we have partnered with HRC to have them send out some of our action alerts and encourage their local members to join our lobbying efforts.
“We’ve also worked closely with other national organizations such as Equality Federation, National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal. These groups have helped us to develop legislative language and conduct research on policies in other states. Passing this bill will require that people throughout the state engage their state lawmakers on why this bill is so important,” Graham said.
The bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing but that could come as early as next week, Graham added.
He urged people to contact their state legislators and ask them to support the bill.
“It is crucial that people contact their legislators about this bill. Because the session is moving so quickly this year, it is important that people act quickly when we send out an action alert. The best way to stay up-to-date and take action is to sign up for our action alert network at GeorgiaEquality.org,” he said.
“It’s also important to take the time to thank those Republicans who have cosponsored the bill. As our polling data shows, between 2011 and 2013, support for this legislation rose among Republicans from 68 percent to 77 percent – so this is clearly a bipartisan bill that all legislators should get behind,” Graham said.
Top photo: Ga. State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) (by Bo Shell)