A recently introduced Louisiana bill would define away the LGBT community’s right to sue over anti-LGBT workplace discrimination and, in identifying those suits as “frivolous,” would effectively reward discriminatory companies by making it easier for them to claim damages if such suits were attempted.
Introduced by Republican Rep. Alan Seabaugh, HB 402 would mean that “suits filed for employment discrimination for any reason other than age, disability, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions, sickle cell trait, and genetic discrimination shall be dismissed and considered frivolous.”
Notice the definite lack of sexual orientation and gender identity protections? Given this bill would supersede local nondiscrimination ordinances and that Louisiana has no other LGBT-inclusive workers’ rights language on the books, it’s not escaped state equality group Louisiana Equality’s notice either.
“In reality, this bill is a stealth attempt to punish workers who file suit for reasons not contained in the quoted list, particularly workers who attempt to sue for discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” the group writes in its memo on the bill.
Rep. Seabaugh has been quiet about the bill since its introduction but, to give you a snapshot of Seabaugh’s views, he voted against an anti-bullying bill in 2011 because he believed, and despite their being nothing in the text to substantiate this, that it would “force teaching alternative lifestyles to our children.” He went on, “Every person who testified…was either gay or testifying on behalf of someone who is gay, so let’s not delude ourselves about the intent of this bill…[it] is straight out of the lesbian, gay, transgender playbook.”
We could quibble that Seabaugh’s bill just about covers everyone with its “genetic discrimination” clause. We could also point out that “sex” might cover gender identity but that would be up to the courts to decide and certainly finds no support among Louisiana’s current laws, even if the Obama administration has been very clear that federal law does cover trans identity discrimination in the workplace.
Regardless, the intent of the bill is clear: it names just about every other possible enumerated class except for LGBTs and then says all suits outside of its list should be considered frivolous.
Chiefly, the bill is built around the lie that Louisiana, or any state for that matter, faces a crisis due to being overwhelmed by a slew of workers filing frivolous discrimination lawsuits. Nowhere in America is that evidenced, and especially not where LGBT rights is concerned.
Furthermore, the bill almost certainly will create a lawsuit because it broadly violates Title VII by attempting to block workers from exercising their right to judicial appeal in the face of unfair dismissal or treatment in the workplace.
Then there’s the issue of making the victim of anti-gay discrimination pay.
Equality Louisiana points out that if an LGBT worker did attempt legal action, this legislation combined with existing law would mean their suit would be dismissed as frivolous. Under such conditions that worker could then be liable for damages claimed by their discriminating employers, as well as court costs — in essence, the bill would not only serve to facilitate employers who discriminate in this fashion, it could effectively reward them should they ever be challenged.
Bruce Parker, Director of Outreach and Community Engagement at Louisiana Progress, is quoted as saying the bill is simply a waste of time.
“With all of the problems facing the state, it is fascinating to me that we’re solving a problem that isn’t a problem,” said Parker. “It’s not like the courts are clogged up with LGBT discrimination cases.”
The bill currently sits waiting to be taken up in the state House’s Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations. It is unclear at this time whether there is any appetite to pass the bill, but it does underscore why LGBT-inclusive federal legislation such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is so necessary.
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