In the Media

Protections for LGBTQ Workers Won’t Work Unless Enforced (Newsweek)

Ann Olivarius op-ed, Newsweek


There are three changes that—if implemented by Congress—would improve enforcement of the Civil Rights Act for the better, giving victims including LGBTQ workers more power to hold employers accountable for wrongdoing. 

First, Congress should extend the time period for employees to file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency tasked with enforcing anti-discrimination laws.  

Second, Congress can expand the narrow definition of discriminatory harassment that now denies many victims justice. To win a claim of harassment under Title VII, employees currently must prove that they were subjected to a hostile work environment so “severe or pervasive” that it materially worsened their conditions of employment. While this standard prevents lawsuits based on employers’ insensitive but ultimately inconsequential conduct, it can also cut off genuine victims of subtler forms of harassment.  

Finally, Congress should allow employees who are not part of a minority group to sue employers who permit discriminatory conduct to occur at work. For example, some workplaces may include a lot of racist jokes and slurs, but now only a black employee, a direct target, can sue for redress. It should be everyone’s right to sue employers who do not do enough to curtail racist or other discriminatory conduct, which can be offensive and corrode workplace relationships for people outside the target group. 

A rising tide of better enforcement can lift all boats—whatever their captain’s gender identity, sexual orientation, race or national origin. It’s time for Congress to take these simple steps.