Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Letter From Rep. Chris Carney's District

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | September 13, 2010 5:29 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Chris Carney, Congress, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Pennsylvania

As I mentioned in my post last week about Congressman Chris Carney, who is being coy on his support of ENDA, I had worked with a constituent of his to meet with him on ENDA last year. I received an email from her after that last post, and she has graciously given me the okay to publish this here. It tells of the job discrimination against her right in Chris Carney's district.

Dear Jillian,

I was just checking my email before leaving for the next 9 days and I saw this email as well as the one you had written me earlier. I couldn't leave without giving you an update on this story.

Please bear with me for a moment as I share some personal information.

In January of 2010, the Census Bureau eventually placed my name on the hiring list and assured me I would be hired shortly. At the end of the first week of March I had still been offered a job, so I called to inquire as to my status. They again assured me that I would be hired in two to three weeks.

At the end of March I called and inquired as to any openings in the Census Bureau as an Enumerator. They expressed great interest in testing and hiring me as they had many positions still open - UNTIL I REVEALED MY NAME AND THE FACT THAT I WAS ALREADY ON THE HIRING LIST. At that point I was placed on hold. When someone finally picked up, I was informed that THERE WERE NO JOBS IN SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY. I then pointed out that I had scored a 95 on the written test and had received 5 points Veteran's Preference to reach a total of 100, and I wanted them to check again to see if there were any jobs for qualified veterans. I was again placed on hold, and a few minutes later the same person came back and gave me the following reply, "Nope, there are NO jobs for qualified veterans. Look don't call us; we'll call you if ANY job EVER opens up in Susquehanna County."

I dutifully filled out my census form and mailed it in on April 1st. On or about May 8th a census worker came to my door to take my information. I wasn't the least bit surprised and I dutifully answered all the questions. During the conversation I mentioned to the census worker that I had applied to work for the Census Bureau but had been told there were no job openings in Susquehanna County. She expressed shock and surprise, as she said she and the other census workers were working such long hours because they had a SHORTAGE of workers! She took down all my particulars and said she would mention it to my team leader to see if he could help in getting me hired.

Needless to say, I never heard from the Census Bureau again.

I have since formed my own business and do house-sitting, pet-sitting, and adult companionship services. I realized I just wasn't going to be hired in this economy - at least not when my gender history came to light.

It's unfortunate, but true, that the Navy will NOT change my DD-214, and it's really an essential document in explaining my work history since I was in service for nearly 24 years. .... I also think my experience proves, if only anecdotally, why ENDA is so vitally needed.

And that's why I thought Congressman Carney and his staffer "got it" when we talked that day last year. The meeting happened exactly as I described in my email to you last year. Congressman Carney could not have been more gracious and understanding.

I am truly mystified by his silence on ENDA and the various news reports I have read that say he is leaning AGAINST ENDA. While the 14 counties in his congressional district are indeed of a conservative bent, I find it difficult to understand why anyone thinks LGBT people should not have the same rights to housing and employment which cisgender and heterosexual people enjoy.

Please DO feel free to quote me, use my name, or my emails in any way which accurately portrays my experience and my meeting with Congressman Carney.

I will be house-sitting/pet-sitting in an extremely isolated area until the morning of September 20th. By isolated I mean that there is no cell-phone service or internet capability - which is to say I cannot be contacted until I return to civilization on the 20th. Such is my employment experience at times (I'm not complaining in way though; at least I feel much safer in such an isolated setting!)

Warmest wishes,
Kerri Ellen Wilder

P.S. Thank you for all you have done, and are doing, to get ENDA passed. My heart kinda sinks when I think that if we fail to pass it by election day, it could be many years before ENDA gets a chance at passage again.

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This is excatly why ENDA ISN'T needed! All it will do is subject transgender people and possibly butch lesbians to genital background checks as a condition of employer accomodation.

What is needed is real respect that only the ERA with gender identity protections would have provided rather than 2nd class legislated inferority that ENDA expresses.

Shame on anyone working towards providing 2nd class citizenship for people they purport to represent!

I admit I'm not familiar with the specific language, but wouldn't a ban on discrimination due to gender presentation preclude genital checks on the basis that they don't matter?

Susquehenna County! Sloooooowly I turned!

Audrey GetEQUAL Smith | September 14, 2010 7:29 AM

I am ALSO working to obtain sponsorship and passage of the American Equality Bill, polargirl360. You make it sound like they are mutually exclusive!

Actually, they are mutually exclusive of each other. Either LGB(t)s will accept disrespect or they won't. There is no two ways about this.

The government will always give less than the minimum demanded to everyone. That's just the way politics work.

Not being clear and concise about what LGB(t)s will tolerate makes them sound like and as bad as the Tea Party. LGB(t)s will end up with the same results as the Tea Party as a consequence: lots of media hype, a few of their own candidates elected, and no meaningful results!

I'm wondering if since the feds have a law that protects LGBT government workers from discrimination if that would apply in this case since it was a federal job.

What's what I thought when I read the letter - the federal government already prohibits discrimination on the basis of SO and GI/E. ENDA's not going to go further than what the feds do.

So much for the Office of Personnel Management's stated policy of nondiscrimination based on gender identity.

I too applied for and was scheduled for training as an enumerator this year but had to take a pass since it would have cost me money by conflicting with my unemployment insurance benefits so they didn't have a chance to discriminate against me. I think Ms Wilder should write a complaint to the OPM detailing the particulars of this egregious incident. Hopefully someone will suffer some negative consequences for it. Until then, unfortunately, they got away with it.

(Also replying to Emelye, seeing similar points to address in zir comment.)

OPM prohibits "negative personnel actions" including failure to hire (as well as demotions, being ignored in the promotion process, and being evaluated worse than equally well-performing coworkers). I assume Kerri has not brought the issue to OPM in a timely manner or their local personnel are also at fault here. Even if she did and hasn't mentioned it, though, this is an after-the-fact determination and potential remedy, not a guarantee that the system will improve for other LGBT applicants.

There's a filing deadline of 30 days since an act of discrimination either happened or came to light, so she's out of luck in this case but could nab them if she applied again. Also, the dispute process, from what I've heard, is very, very slow. It can take years if it isn't resolved informally...which my workplace, at least, prefers because it's a lot less ugly and expensive for them.

OPM's regulations, however, aren't perfect: When I was harassed by coworkers, I had to bring my claim on the basis of gender discrimination. It's enough to slap down discrimination that doesn't qualify as a negative personnel action but it doesn't address the root of the issue, which is that anti-LGBT sentiments have as little place in the workplace as generic gender stereotypes do.

Another problem with the dispute process is that we can only choose one basis for discrimination. Mine was both gender norms (single women need a man, right?) and disregard for my identification as lesbian. Definitely room for improvement on an awareness level.