Jewish Journal


June 18, 2010

Walking the Walk: Schusterman Foundation


Did you know that in 29 states you can be fired just for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual?  (Click here to see what your state says).  And if you’re transgender, you can be fired in 38 states?

Surprising, right!?!?! Laws prohibiting such discrimination in the workplace have been in place for decades for racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and women.  And yet, simply for having a photo on your desk of you and your spouse, you can be fired in the majority of states.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 has been introduced in the House and Senate, which would make it illegal to discrimination against someone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the employment context.  This is overdue.  A recent study found that complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation filed by employees in states with laws protecting such employees are filed at similar rates to those filed by women alleging sex discrimination.  Yeah, you heard that right – gay, lesbian, and bisexual people file complaints that the same rate as women.  The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 has fallen victim to our inefficient and paralyzed Congress, so it hasn’t been voted on.  President Obama, meanwhile, has said that he would sign the bill if it reached his desk. 

And yet, there is good news, especially for those of us who work in the Jewish community.  Today, one of the leading funders of Jewish organizations, the Schusterman Family Foundation made a striking pronouncement.  Lynn Schusterman, the chief of the Foundation, stated “We will only consider funding organizations that have non-discrimination policies covering both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”  For more on her statement, check out this op-ed in today’s JTA.

Wow.  You heard that correctly, one of the largest contributors to Jewish organizations, funding things from Birthright to Hillel to BBYO, has made nondiscrimination policies a requirement to receive funding.  This is a huge step forward in the Jewish community in terms of making it a priority that all people are treated equally in the workplace. 


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