Commerce secretary ‘appalled’
Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross issued a new non-discrimination policy last week, omitting explicit assurances LGBT workers won’t face discrimination in his department, prompting outcry that resulted in an updated version of the document making clear the prohibition on anti-LGBT discrimination.
The 2017 Secretarial Policy Statement on Equal Employment Opportunity initially found on the Commerce Department’s website declared it won’t tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability. Omitted from the policy: sexual orientation and gender identity — two categories that were included in the policy under the Obama administration.
According to a report in BuzzFeed, the Ross policy statement was circulated among department staff on June 15. The new policy statement was posted within 10 days prior to then, BuzzFeed reports, because an archived view of the website from June 6 reveals the 2016 LGBT-inclusive statement was included. The Commerce Department employs nearly 47,000 workers, according to its website.
David Stacy, the Human Rights Campaign’s government affairs director, said in a statement the omission represents “the Trump/Pence Administration actively seeking to undermine rights for LGBTQ people.”
“The Commerce Department’s EEO statement is meant to inform workers and applicants about their legal protections,” Stacy said. “Cutting specific mention of sexual orientation and gender identity protections is a slap in the face to LGBTQ federal employees who proudly serve at the Department of Commerce, and sadly signals that this administration does not value them.”
June 23, 2017
After initial media reports and outcry over the omission, the Commerce Department sent out a new version of the non-discrimination policy June 16 with sexual orientation and gender identity specifically included.
A Commerce Department spokesperson said the omission was “never intended to change the policy or exclude any protected categories” and insisted the department doesn’t discriminate against LGBT people.
“I hope we can help people understand that the impression this whole situation gave people is really not who Sec. Ross is,” the spokesperson said. “As soon as this was brought to his attention, he was appalled and directed immediate action be taken to rectify any misconceptions. From his first day at Commerce, Sec. Ross has made clear that he will tolerate no bias or discrimination of any sort.”
Even if the Commerce Department no longer prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT workers there would still have protections under the executive order signed by President Clinton barring anti-gay discrimination in the