Yesterday, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) signed into a law a bill allowing religious groups and private businesses to deny services to gay and transgender people under the guise of protecting religious freedom.
I’ll cut to the chase…this law…and others in recent weeks (i.e. North Carolina’s law preventing local municipalities from providing protection to transgender persons) are morally bankrupt and creates opportunities for businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBT community because of their sexual orientations.
Now as an HR guy…I’m the least qualified person to preach to you about what is morally right and what is morally wrong. I’ll leave that to your pastor, priest, rabbi, etc.
From an HR perspective…Mississippi’s new law is wrong, and extremely troublesome.
Section (3) Paragraph (1)(b) as written “makes any employment-related decision including, but not limited to, the decision whether or not to hire, terminate or discipline an individual whose conduct or religious beliefs are inconsistent with those of the religious organization, based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described” in the new law.
The language in the new law goes directly against guidance from the EEOC: “EEOC interprets and enforces Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination as forbidding any employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. These protections apply regardless of any contrary state or local laws.”
If you’re an HR practitioner in a state that has enacted a law contrary to guidance from the EEOC, I implore you to advise your employer’s from engaging in discriminatory behavior that can land them in legal troubles.
If you’re an employee in a state that has enacted a law contrary to the above guidance and have been on the receiving end of an adverse employment action, I hope that you reach out to your nearest EEOC office…for those of you in Mississippi the nearest EEOC office is in Birmingham, Alabama, and in North Carolina, its in Charlotte. I also hope that you find new employment with an employer who will value you for the talent that you bring to the organization and not because of your sexual orientation and/or identity.
Regardless of your what your career field is, I hope you’ll join me in reaching out to your representatives in Congress and demand an expansion to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or identity. The addition of unambiguous language (I hope) will make a difference in solidifying the basic rights for members of the LGBT community that every other citizen is afforded and rightly deserves. As a HR practitioner, I hope that SHRM will also take up the fight and use the weight of its organization to put pressure on Congress to get this done.