Guam lacks laws against gender identity discrimination at work - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam lacks laws against gender identity discrimination at work

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While strides have been made in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community recently on Guam, the fight for equality is far from over. While Guam joins 37 other states and the District of Columbia to allow for same-sex marriage, we are also one of over two dozen other states that have no laws from discriminating in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Lasia Casil knows all too well about workplace discrimination, recalling, "All I wanted to do was work and pay my rent, pay for college, put food on the table and be a contributing member of the Chamorro community - but I was terminated not because I broke any laws..but just for existing." 20 years ago, Casil was hired as a waitress at a new hotel opening up in Tumon. Just hours within opening its doors, she was called into the human resources office and told she was being fired for lying on her job application.

"I was accused of lying about my gender identification. I had checked 'F' on my job application as female, as that was what I identified then, as I do now, 21 years later." Casil says she was fired because she was transgender. While she brought the issue to the Department of Labor, she was told nothing could be done because there were no laws on Guam protecting an employee from being fired based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

That, however, may change with The Guam Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2015. Joann Waki Muna is Pacific Council state director for the Society of Human Resource Management and spoke during the bill's public hearing, saying, "SHRM supports public policy efforts to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. SHRM believes that any legislation should be narrowly drafted to avoid unintended consequences for the employers and the employees."

Meanwhile, Bill Pesch - one of the attorneys behind Guam's same-sex marriage lawsuit - says it's exciting times for the local LGBT community. "However, even if the US Supreme Court holds that all states must allow same-sex marriage, the LGBT community's fight for equality is far from over. Although a gay couple may be able to marry today, they might be fired solely because of their sexual orientation," he stated.

As for Casil, while she had lived in fear of coming home after her experience of workplace discrimination, she now has her own jewelry line and is her own boss. Yet not everyone in the LGBT community is as lucky. "When one is terminated from their job and there no means for them to provide the basic necessities for themselves - food, shelter or healthcare - many times in the LGBT community it means having to turn to alternative or illegal ways to survive," she explained.

"What we're asking for today, is not to be treated better than anyone, we're not asking for extra privileges, we're asking for equality."

Along with sexual orientation and gender identity, the bill also covers veteran and military status. We should add on June 11, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that sexual orientation would be added to the list of non-discrimination protections under the military's Equal Opportunity Program.

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