Saturday, January 5, 2008

JMO - Why ENDA may not work

I was reading that Senator Kennedy plans to re-introduce the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the 2008 session of Congress, but without the inclusion of protection for transgender or transsexual people, normal referred to as "gender identity", different from cross-dressers, transvestites, drag queens and female illusionists/impersonators. If you don't know the difference, look it up, and while many in the transcommunity indentify as both sides, most don't.

But that's not my point. I want to say that while I applaud the efforts to include protections for people for their sexual orientation, which by the way also includes heterosexuals - we all have some type of sexual identity or orietation, but has been recognized as homosexuals or bisexuals, I deplore those same people for excluding transpeople simply because it's politically expedient being an election year.

And Congress knows President Bush will veto any new ENDA, even for LGB people, so why go ahead with something so divisive in the LGBT community unless they want to mainstream homosexuals and discriminate against transpeople. They know the transcommunity can not now or will not for years get their protection in ENDA on their own, even with a Democratic Congress and President. That's the reality of world today, it doesn't sell to the public.

But that's not my point. I believe ENDA with LGB inclusion won't work because it ignores the reality of the workplace. It's not all that hard to fire someone for being gay or lesbian and disguise it as job performance, management reorganization, and other reasons which are not only legal but supported by senior management. And if the employee wants to sue, so be it, because they also know that takes years and money, something many employees don't have.

I remember a case of a woman who hassled another woman for years, especially after my friend, the latter woman, won a promotion over the other woman (both applied). The woman who lost waged a two-year campaign to undermine my friend's work and her job performance. Everyone filed complaints against the woman who was hassling our friend, but she had connections to a their boss (she taught him when he started for the organization).

Finally my friend filed a grievance with her (their) boss, not realizing the depth of the friendship between the woman who was hassling her and their boss. He rejected it and blamed each as spate between women. She then filed the grievance with our boss, who agreed with her senior manager. She then decided to get a lawyer and file a complaint (there is a difference in the rules between a grievance and a complaint) with the regional Human Resources office.

After an investigation they concluded the woman who was hassling my friend was 99% to blame and my friend 1% for some minor comments she made. Our boss decided to disregard the report and forced both women into arbitration. My friend rejected this, partly on the advice of her lawyer, friends (like me), and the regional HR employee representative. But our boss said it was arbitration or resignation.

If you don't know, the reason you don't use arbitration is that the arbitrator automatically assume both parties are equally to blame for the problem and reasons the issue can't be resolved. This was wrong and the regional HR office said as much, but they couldn't override our boss' decision to force it. So my friend refused and filed a lawsuit based on the investigation. This forced another investigation.

The second more thorough investigation found the woman who hassled my friend 99% to blame, but added that their boss was at fault for not resolving the matter quickly and fairly, meaning supporting his friend (other woman) against the evidence. They also found our boss at fault for trying to cover up the whole problem and not forcing appropriate discipline for the hassling woman.

So what happened? Senior (headquarters) management, not wanting this to go to court or become public, offered my friend a buyout to resign and a promise if she re-entered government service, she would given a good recommendation. She wanted to leave for school anyway and didn't want to stay in such a workplace environment - she could only transfter out of state if she stayed.

The woman who hassled her stayed with the organization, got the job she wanted, and to no one's surprise failed miserably with many complaints against her authoritarian management. She was eventually transferred back to her old job and told she'll be there until she retires. All because she got a new boss with whom didn't have a history and political connections. And my friend got her education and is currently working for government again.

The whole story, and there are more, showed me about crossing management and employees with connections. A few years later I had a similar experience where I was threatened by my boss if I went outside the office over a violation of regulations. I did report the problem and his threat, and it pretty much set in place a series of confrontations with management over years and buried my career in the organization.

I don't regret my decisions, I wasn't interested in political correctness. I was angry with the insolence of management toward employees, and always spoke for them at management staff meetings. Eventually, I got some bosses who began to see the truth and light, as they say, and learned to listen, but it was too late for my career. And partly why I took an early retirement.

And my point is that ENDA is some respects is window dressing. I still support an all-inclusive ENDA, because without the law discrimination against transpeople would and could be blatant and obvious, leaving the employee no way to get retribution or compensation. It's about protecting everyone from management's abuses.

If you think I'm being dismissive about it, I can tell you from my years in management, it happens for similar reasons other than sexual identity or orientation. I have supported employees with grievances against managers who clearly violated the regulations, and even the law, and were not only defended but supported by management, and in every case the employee lost.

In the end, it's about being right for all, not just being right for politicial expediency. That's discrimination, something they condemn and then condone.

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