|By Marketwired .||
|December 5, 2013 01:00 PM EST|
HARRISBURG, PA--(Marketwired - December 05, 2013) - Citing economic as well as moral grounds, State Treasurer Rob McCord is asking members of the Pennsylvania U.S. House delegation to support the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that recently passed the Senate. The legislation would protect citizens from job termination or lost employment opportunities based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In a letter sent this week to each of the state's 18 representatives, McCord said people of all backgrounds deserve the basic civil right of gaining or holding a job based on their individual abilities and talents rather than irrelevant personal factors. He also said his experience in the business world taught him the benefits of diversity -- a greater pool of talents and perspectives resulted in greater financial performance.
"I am certain there are financial benefits from diversity that can be felt throughout our economy," he wrote. "In short, ensuring that people of all backgrounds are both represented and protected is not only the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do. Protecting this civil right will help boost bottom lines."
McCord pointed out that our nation has consistently expanded employment rights, such that banning or firing someone from a job on the basis of race, gender, age, disability, or religion is unthinkable for most Americans today. He said members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Pennsylvania and other states are entitled to similar protection that Americans take for granted concerning other demographics.
Noting that Pennsylvania Senators Pat Toomey, a Republican and Bob Casey, a Democrat, already supported the bill, and that six House members of both parties are already either co-sponsors or publicly on record as favoring ENDA -- Democrats Michael Doyle, Bob Brady, Allyson Schwartz, Chaka Fattah, Matt Cartwright and Republican Charles Dent -- McCord said he was gratified by such significant bipartisan support.
"I thank those who understand the need to end this strain of employment discrimination and I encourage every other member to join this enlightened position," he wrote. In addition, he urged members to encourage Speaker of the House John Boehner to bring ENDA to the House floor for a vote.
McCord also said the track record among many large companies and in some states that have LGBT anti-discrimination practices refutes many of the objections that are sometimes raised against ENDA -- such as an increase in frivolous lawsuits or businesses being burdened by a rush of discrimination claims.
Among Fortune 500 companies, 484 protect their employees against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. That includes all 27 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Pennsylvania. They have clearly decided that the risks of such policies are outweighed by the benefits of being able to attract and retain a diverse workforce. Twenty-one states already provide such workplace protection, with limited instances of discrimination complaints.
McCord also cited a poll from earlier this year showing 70 percent of Pennsylvanians support banning workplace discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation.
The text of the letter is below.
For more information, visit www.patreasury.gov.
The Honorable Representative (Name)
Dear Representative (Name),
As you know, Pennsylvania voters have twice given me the honor of serving as their State Treasurer. I began my term in 2009 after decades of private sector experience in which I witnessed the benefits of diversity. Greater diversity often translated into a greater pool of talents and perspectives that resulted in greater financial performance. Now, as State Treasurer, I serve as an institutional investor who helps safeguard and invest about $90 billion annually, and I am certain there are financial benefits from diversity that can be felt throughout our economy.
In short, ensuring that people of all backgrounds are both represented and protected is not only the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do. Protecting this civil right will help boost bottom lines.
Through a series of legislative acts, the United States Congress has consistently expanded our recognition of, and legal respect for, the basic principle that employment should be based on an individual's abilities and not on factors irrelevant to performance such as race, disability, or religious practices. Thankfully, the thought of being fired from a job based upon one's race or religion is unfathomable to most Americans today. That reaction is part of what protects and promotes our meritocracy.
Unfortunately, many of our family members, friends, and colleagues in the LGBT community in Pennsylvania and other states face the risk of wrongful termination or lost employment opportunities -- simply because they are not entitled to the same workplace protections that many Americans take for granted. That is not just wrong, it is economically destructive.
Therefore, for both moral and financial reasons, I urge you to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that was recently passed by the United States Senate on a bipartisan basis. I am gratified that a significant number of Pennsylvania's U.S. House delegation are already on record as supporters of this important legislation. I thank those who understand the need to end this strain of employment discrimination, and I encourage every other member to join in this enlightened position.
Your support of ENDA would confirm Americans' increasing understanding that employees should be evaluated solely for their performance and capabilities, not based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. I also request you to encourage House Speaker John Boehner to bring ENDA to the House floor for a vote. The last time that the House of Representatives voted on ENDA was in 2007. It passed 235-184, with 35 Republicans, including Paul Ryan, voting in favor of the bill.
According to the Equality Forum, 484 of the Fortune 500 companies -- or 96.8% -- protect their employees against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. We can be justifiably proud that business leaders in our Commonwealth have exceeded even that remarkable degree of support for employment equality: every one of the 27 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Pennsylvania has voluntarily included sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policies.
Opponents of ENDA have trotted out many of the same unsupported arguments that were raised in prior debates over legislation to end discrimination based on race, age, disability, and religion.
For example, some ENDA critics have once again contended that passage would result in frivolous lawsuits. To this, I respond that those 484 Fortune 500 companies whose policies prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation have clearly decided both that the risks are minimal and that they are far outweighed by the benefits of being able to attract -- and retain -- a diverse workforce. The limited instances of discrimination complaints in the 21 states that provide this workforce protection further refute this spurious argument.
While legislation to expand rights and protections to the LGBT community is viewed by some as a partisan issue, I am encouraged by the increasing support for ENDA from both Republicans and Democrats. Senators Toomey and Casey cast votes in favor of ENDA. Similar bills introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly this session addressing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity have 118 bipartisan sponsors.
Public polling in Pennsylvania shows overwhelming public support for ENDA. Earlier this year, Susquehanna Polling and Research found that more than 70% of Pennsylvanians support banning discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation. Thus, a vote for ENDA is not just moral, effective and efficient, it is what a supermajority of Pennsylvanians want.
In closing, we are seldom provided such clear opportunities to be on the right side of history. Some in the past chose the wrong side of history when confronted with issues such as voting rights for women, civil rights for African Americans, or adequate building access for the disabled. I hope you will decide to be on the right side now and support legislation that confirms America's promise of freedom and equal protections for all.
Please do support and promote ENDA and then vote for its passage.
Thank you for your consideration of this letter -- and for your service to the citizens of Pennsylvania. I look forward to learning about your views on ENDA.
Robert M. McCord