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Ohio workplace discrimination victim advocates federal protections

May 17, 2012 O&AN Staff Reports   Comments

WASHINGTON, DC – Shari Hutchinson has joined Freedom to Work in the nation’s capital this week to share her story with lawmakers and senior policy makers at the same time Congress considers federal legislation and the Obama Administration considers an executive order to ban workplace discrimination against GLBT Americans.Freedom to Work's Shari Hutchinson meets with Congressman Jared Polis. Hutchinson thanked him for his strong leadership on ENDA and the federal contractor executive order.

Hutchinson, a Cleveland resident, joined Freedom to Work's Speakers Bureau in 2011 after she secured a successful six-figure settlement from her sexual orientation bias case based on the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Ohio laws currently do not protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, and Hutchinson would not have been able to bring any lawsuit for workplace discrimination if she had worked for a private sector employer in Ohio.
 
As Hutchinson joined Freedom to Work president Tico Almeida in Washington this week as part of the organization’s “We Can’t Wait” campaign, hundreds of her fellow Ohioans lobbied for state-level anti-GLBT discrimination laws as part of Equality Ohio’s Lobby Day Wednesday, May 16.
 
“We were thrilled to help Shari meet with senior policy makers in Washington, D.C., this week as part of our ongoing ‘We Can’t Wait’ campaign,” said Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work. “In both the nation’s and Ohio’s capitals yesterday, hundreds of GLBT grassroots advocates, like Shari, were putting a human face to the issue of workplace discrimination and harassment.”

Almeida praised these groups as the best advocates for GLBT workplace fairness in America because their real-life struggles to win the freedom to work without harassment or discrimination will change people’s hearts and minds.

“We look forward to flying in many more LGBT Americans from around the country in the weeks and months to come as part of our ‘We Can’t Wait’ campaign,” he added.
 
“I traveled from Cleveland to our nation’s capital to let our senators know that anti-gay workplace discrimination hurts real people and our family members in places like Ohio,” said Hutchinson. "That’s why we need both a state law and a federal law to give GLBT Americans the freedom to work without harassment or discrimination on the job.”

Hutchinson met with staff for Senator Sherrod Brown and thanked him for cosponsoring ENDA. She also met with staff for Senator Rob Portman and urged him to join with other Republican Senators who already support the proposal for GLBT workplace fairness.
 
Elizabeth Rothenberg, an attorney at Avery Friedman & Associates in Cleveland, represented Hutchinson in her 2011 lawsuit and had much to add on Hutchinson’s case.

“As the facts of Shari’s case were unearthed through depositions, it became clear that the high cost of anti-LGBT discrimination extended beyond Shari to the taxpayers,” she said. “Not only did the County waste an incredible amount of money defending the lawsuit only to settle on the eve of trial, but less qualified and often unskilled employees were promoted year after year in a continued effort to keep Shari from advancing.”
 
“Complementary and collaborative efforts to pass nondiscrimination laws on the local, state and federal level are critical," said Ed Mullen, Executive Director of Equality Ohio, which is hosting its 7th Annual Lobby Day on May 16 in the Ohio Statehouse. "Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people should not be fired or denied promotions because of who they are, and protection from discrimination should not be based on where someone lives."

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