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Thursday, 06 April 2017 06:03

Trump Repeals Workplace Protections Set Under Obama

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trumpworkplace(Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Women and LGBTQIA employees of federal contractors will become more vulnerable under the revocation of an Obama-era regulation that provides them with more protections in the workplace. Mother Jones reported on the lamentable irony Trump revoked "parental leave and sexual harassment protections the week before Equal Pay Day," along with other rollbacks of workplace equity and justice:

[The Obama order] required companies with federal contracts to heed 14 different labor and civil rights laws, including ones aimed at protecting parental leave, weeding out discrimination against women and minorities, and ensuring equal pay for women and fair processes surrounding workplace sexual harassment allegations.

Last week, Trump revoked this order, leaving workers at thousands of companies [with federal contracts] much more vulnerable to a host of abuses from their employers -- and undoing protections meant to create more equitable workplaces for women.

GOOD reported that Trump's action will significantly weaken the workplace rights of LGBTQIA workers:

Some of these laws [in the Obama Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order] safeguarded the LGBTQ community from discrimination and harassment based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

"It's sending a message to these companies … that the federal government simply doesn't care whether or not they violate the law," Camilla Taylor, senior counsel at Lambda Legal told Keen News Service. "President Trump's quiet take down yesterday of federal safeguards against employment discrimination for millions of LGBT Americans is yet another example of why our elected officials, advocates, and our community must remain vigilant and continue working together to stop this administration's regressive and harmful policies," Kate Kendell, executive director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement.

The repeal was first approved by both houses of Congress under the provisions of the Congressional Review Act, which BuzzFlash detailed in this commentary. In short, the protections were reversed due to Congress and Trump working in coordination to make the nation less equitable. Corporations opposed the Obama order with the usual argument that ensuring equal rights would cost businesses billions of dollars -- and they prevailed on the Hill and in the White House.

Heather McGhee, President of Demos, a New York progressive think tank, criticized the Trump White House action, and pointed out that workers stand to lose billions of dollars, among other negative impacts:

By signing this repeal of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive Order, President Trump has shown his true colors as, not a champion for America's working class, but their enemy. This order was put in place to ensure very basic protections for federal contract workers against illegal actions by companies – now, President Trump has rescinded them at the request of these very same businesses. 

Protections for federal contract workers are much needed. Demos research finds that approximately 40 percent of all federal contracting dollars in 2013 went to contractors with health, safety or wage violations on their record. Americans working for federal contractors lose up to $2.5 billion each year to violations of minimum wage laws alone.

Companies that cheat working Americans should not be rewarded with lucrative federal contracts.

An article in the Independent was blunt about one of the side effects of the rescission, "Donald Trump signs order making it easier for men to sexually harass women at work and get away with it." The report provided some details to back up its assertion:

Mr. Obama's ban on "cover-up clauses" stopped companies with government contracts from using the forced arbitration clause to keep sex discrimination claims out of the courts and off the public record.

Maya Raghu, director of workplace equality the National Women's Law Center, told the news channel: "Arbitrations are private proceedings with secret filings and private attorneys, and they often help hide sexual harassment claims.

"It can silence victims. They may feel afraid of coming forward because they might think they are the only one, or fear retaliation."

Obama's Fair Pay and Safe Workplace rule was a modest, but significant step toward workplace equity. Trump and Congress just decimated it.