ACLU hopes to raise workforce protection awareness in Tampa with “Dignity and Work” campaign

By : Jeremy Williams
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Dignidad y Trabajo (“Dignity and Work”), a campaign to raise awareness about the need for providing equal treatment based on sexual orientation and gender identity at the workplace in Florida’s Hispanic community, publicly expanded across Central Florida.

The campaign, which launched March of 2014 in Miami, held its first Central Florida forum hosted by Ana G. Mendez University in Tampa as well as co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Sept. 9 and 10.

Panelists included AGMUS Psychology Professor Rafael Fuentes, Lydia Medrano, LULAC Southeast Regional Vice President, Nelson Borges from the EEOC office and Joyce Hamilton, Director of Advocacy, ACLU of Florida.

“We have this initiative called Dignidad y Trabajo, and the purpose of it is to do outreach and education within the Hispanic community,” Hamilton says. “We want to raise awareness about the fact that LGBT individuals are being discriminated against in the workplace and the fact that Florida has no direct protections for LGBT individuals.”

Dignity and Work is also in partnership with SAVE, the largest organization for the rights of LGBT people in South Florida, and together with the ACLU of Florida they have created a coalition of faith-based and business individuals to get the word out.

“People across our state agree that workers should be judged at work based on their ability to do a job, not on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” ACLU of Florida Mid-Florida Regional Organizer Paola CalvoFlorido said in a statement.

Florido is leading the project’s outreach in the Central Florida region.

“What many people don’t know is that people can be fired just for being LGBT in many of our communities,” Florido continued. “Through the Dignidad y Trabajo campaign, we will demonstrate to community leaders in Hillsborough and Orange counties that providing equal treatment represents a commitment to the values of hard work and fairness that our communities hold dear.”

According to the Dignidad y Trabajo website, 73 percent of Americans agree that people should be judged at work by their performance, not their sexual orientation or gender identity; however, 87 percent of people in the U.S. mistakenly believe that a federal law protecting LGBT workers from employment discrimination already exists.

This is why forums like this are so important,” Hamilton says. “It is purely an educational campaign, there’s no action required except joining us and having a conversation about this important issue and let people know why it is so important to have protections for LGBT individuals.”

Throughout the various campaigns the panelists hear stories of discrimination from across the state and they hope to get those stories out to the public through their website.

“Our goal is to populate the website with stories of individuals willing to share with us,” Hamilton says. “Get the word out about the lack of protections.”

They are waiting on confirmation to hold the next event at the Ana G. Mendez University in Orlando, tentatively Oct. 20, and Hamilton hopes they are able to have many more of these forums.

“This is an outreach effort to the Hispanic community and part of the reason for that is discrimination is occurring in the workplace and we know that is wrong and discrimination against LGBT persons is even worse, especially in individuals of color. We want to ensure the community has the opportunity to discuss this issue and be heard,” Hamilton says.

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