Just over a year ago, Clark Lauritzen, then-Chairman of the Chamber Board, testified at the Nebraska State Capitol in favor of LB 586, a measure that would forbid firings because of someone’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
With the measure up for consideration again this year, we thought it appropriate to share Clark’s remarks and re-iterate why we support this measure so crucial to talent recruitment in our state.
LB 586: Sexual Orientation Anti-Discrimination
Nebraska State Legislature Testimony
February 4, 2015
Chairman Seiler, members of the Committee, I am Clark Lauritzen, and I am the Chairman of the Greater Omaha Chamber. Thank you for inviting me to speak here today in support of LB 586, which we have endorsed as a Chamber.
Our organization’s support is based on several factors. First and foremost, we believe passing a law like this is the right thing to do. We do not believe in discrimination of any kind and we believe that employees of companies in Nebraska have the right not to be discriminated against by their employer. Furthermore, we believe these employees should be free to be who they are and not live in fear that they might be terminated based on a discriminatory bias. We also do not believe a prospective employee applying for a job should be disadvantaged in any way by who they are, or have to hide who they are in order to gain employment.
Secondly, we believe this bill would have tremendous implications for economic development in our state. Employees who are considering where to live consider a wide range of factors and increasingly this issue is a deciding factor. Talented employees largely want to work in an environment that is open, welcoming and nondiscriminatory. At the Chamber we work every day to get more of these talented employees to move to or stay in Nebraska and we have heard direct feedback from talented people who do not want to work in Nebraska because the state does not offer protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
It is not just employees who focus on this issue but also employers who make choices every day as to where they will locate their businesses. Increasingly employers consider this issue when they make those important decisions that will impact the growth and future opportunities available in our state. We should all work together to remove barriers to economic and in that sense workforce development and passing this bill would absolutely move us in the right direction as a state.
There are some who might argue our motivations are purely for economic development. Yes, we do believe this bill would help economic development in our state, but it would also help employees who work across our state. It would allow our companies to find and hire the best people and it would allow the best people to find employment no matter what their sexual orientation. This bill is good for employees and employers and the benefits are not mutually exclusive.
There are some who will argue that this bill will create a burden or unnecessary cost on business. I can tell you that we do not believe that and that the facts to not support that claim. Since Omaha has passed a similar law in 2012 there have been very few claims or costs to businesses as a result. Also, many of the companies who operate in Nebraska already have policies aligned with this bill we do not see any meaningful claims or costs as a result of these policies. Instead, what we do see – every day – are talented, hard working and engaged employees who love working somewhere where they can use their talents fully without fear of lawful discrimination.
Lastly, and very importantly, I would urge the members of the legislature to pass this bill now, in 2015, rather than waiting for another time. I am confident that this bill or a bill like it will pass in Nebraska, just as it has in 21 states and the City of Omaha. Other states have similar measures before their legislatures and the longer we wait, the more we fall behind, the more our image appears to be of a state that is not welcoming to all, and the more good-talent and jobs we will lose to other states. A vote to defeat an anti-discrimination proposal does give the impression that a state has voted to discriminate and it does get noticed by people outside of Nebraska.
In particular, it is worth noting that that our neighboring states of Iowa and Colorado prohibit such discrimination, as do Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. In an era where labor is increasingly mobile, we cannot afford to give good people a reason to leave our state or choose another state over ours. Recently it was reported that Nebraska’s unemployment is 2.9%. While this is a great statistic, it also presents a one of the greatest challenges for Nebraska’s employers and that is finding available talent. We should help our employers attract and retain that talent, while also doing the right thing for the citizens of Nebraska.
Nebraska is a wonderful state. Our greatest asset as a state is our people. I would respectfully ask the members of the committee to pass LB 586 and allow our state to further grow and benefit all of its people for generations to come.