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Civil Rights

The Least Our City Can Do for LGBT/Q Workers

Yesterday we talked about how workers desperately need a national Just Cause law that supersedes and makes invalid all state-level at-will employment doctrine that make it possible for bosses to fire us for no given reason. One thing we mentioned the way at-will employment can cause LGBT/Q people the pain of having to hide themselves at work, whether that means self-censoring when talking with coworkers about your personal life or continually having to answer to a name that misrepresents your very being.

A national Just Cause law is going to take time to fight for, push through, pass, and enact. But there are smaller, easier demands we can make in the meantime to improve workers’ lives right where we’re at.

The State of Tennessee, which refuses to enact any laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, also bars local governments from adopting ordinances that bar employers in their localities from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, local governments can implement LGBT/Q anti-discrimination policies for their own city or county employees. It’s a small thing, but it is a start. And the existence—or lack—of such a policy sets a clear tone for how city or county leaders expect the LGBT/Q people in their area to be treated in general.

Five cities in our state—Chattanooga, Knox City, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville—have already taken this step. Nashville, in fact, implemented their policy ten years ago.

Why has Johnson City not?

The policy models are there, thanks to the five cities that have done it already, so it doesn’t have to be built from scratch. Given the large LGBT/Q population we have, it certainly can’t be argued that such a policy is unneeded.

We can come up with only two reasons why the city would not already have such a policy in place: either they’ve not been asked—in which case, it’s time for us to get together and bring it to their attention—or they’d rather protect a privilege to discriminate.

We sincerely hope it’s the former. We invite you to join us in finding out! Message us your contact info or (even better!) attend our next DSA meeting—Wednesday, September 11th at 6:30 pm at The Space, 419 W Market St, Johnson City, TN—and we’ll get together and figure out how to start building a movement to get LGBT/Q workers some basic workplace protections around here.

And until then…have a wonderful Labor Day! Consider coming by the free BBQ for Bernie, organized by Tri-Cities TN/VA for Bernie, at old Kiwanis Park today between noon and 8pm. And have a FABULOUS time at Tri-Pride on Saturday!

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