In light of the rise of #metoo and countless people speaking out about sexual harassment in the workplace, Congress voted to make yearly sexual harassment and discrimination training mandatory last year. This year the mandate took effect but some alarming news came to light: the training skips talking about sexual orientation and gender identity—and it may have been done intentionally.
BuzzFeed News got a hold of a letter led by Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and by signed 49 other House Democrats denouncing the omission and urging that it’s fixed. The letter, directed to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Mississippi Rep. Gregg Harper, states:
Despite a stated objective of the training to decrease harassment and discrimination the program omits any discussion of discrimination in the workplace based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. We are especially concerned that the omission of content on this subject may be a deliberate decision rather than a simple oversight. Upon completing the training and inquiring about the issue, a Member was told that the program facilitators were directed to explicitly exclude guidance about discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity as part of the training.
While there hasn’t been an official response, this administration’s track record doesn’t give us much hope to think it was an accident. In fact, a spokesperson for the Committee on House Administration (led by Rep. Gregg Harper as chairman) told BuzzFeed News that while Congress voted for training, there was nothing mandating that sexual orientation or gender identity be covered.
While they’re using this sneaky way to say that they’re still following the resolution, the law isn’t quite on their side—and it leaves a large hole for people targeted by this type of harassment. The letter mentions how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and federal courts have asserted that this type of discrimination is illegal.
Numerous studies show that LGBTQ people consistently face high rates of discrimination and harassment in the workplace.