There are Federal laws that protect workers from being discriminated against because of their sex, race, religion, national origin, age and disability. However, workers in many states are at risk of being fired for who they are.
The rollback of guidelines protecting transgender individuals was a step away from progress for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community, but State Sen. Adam Morfeld is pushing for a bill that would protect all Nebraska workers, regardless of sexual orientation.
Morfeld’s bill, LB173, would prevent employers who have 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This would be accomplished by adding both to the state nondiscrimination laws.
“Poll after poll has shown that overwhelming majorities of rural and urban Nebraskans believe that no one should be fired for who they are or who they love, but rather judged on the quality of their work,” Morfeld said at a news conference Feb. 21. “That’s because fairness is the Nebraska way.”
LB173 is one of four bills concerning anti-discrimination in the workplace that have been discussed on the senate floor since 2014. Every measure has been narrowly stopped by opponents.
The Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) is one such opponent of the bill.
“While we, as Catholics, understand that all men and women are created in the image and likeness of God and are deserving of respect and dignity, LB173 goes beyond dealing with arbitrary and unjust discrimination,” The NCC’s website said. “Instead, LB173 would further allow the government to forcibly coerce and punish differing beliefs on marriage, family and human sexuality.”
Ensuring the protection of LGBT individuals is not punishing employers. Allowing the mistreatment and possible termination of employment of people simply trying to do their jobs and live their lives is punishing “differing beliefs on marriage, family and human sexuality.”
Sophomore and board member of UNO’s Queer and Trans Services (QTS), Mathew Dooley said the bill is long overdue.
“Nebraska Nice” implies that Nebraskans are particularly nice,” Dooley said, “but how can that be claimed when you can be fired for simply being yourself.”
If LB173 is passed, Nebraska would be one of twenty states that protect against discrimination in the workplace.
“Besides affording basic human dignity to members of the LGBT community, in relation to workplace discrimination, LB173 has the potential to send a message to Nebraska’s LGBT citizens that the state will start doing what it can to ensure members of the community will not continue to be treated as second class citizens,” Dooley said.
According to a study conducted by UCLA’s William’s Institute, about 4 percent of the U.S. workforce identifies as LGBT and 21 percent of those employees reported discrimination in regards to hiring, pay and promotions.
Even as progress for trans and gay students is set back by the Trump Administration, there is still hope at the state level. Hopefully Nebraskan’s will choose to move towards progress.