Friday, October 8th, 2010

Fort Lauderdale, Florida- October 8, 2010 – Former openly-gay Hollywood Police officer Michael ("Mikey") Verdugo (who charged that he was unfairly terminated by the City of Hollywood), along with his pro bono attorney, George Castrataro, Esq., and a team of community leaders, will hold an important rally to keep attention focused on Mr. Verdugo's exemplary discrimination case and further explain why support for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is so important.

The rally precedes a Court Hearing scheduled on November 30, 2010 relevant to Mr. Verdugo's ongoing discrimination case against the City of Hollywood. Mr. Verdugo is still fighting to be reinstated in his job.

Media coverage is invited:

DATE: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 (Also SPIRIT DAY)

TIME: Noon

LOCATION: City of Hollywood / City Hall, 2600 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, Florida

DRESS: People across US will wear purple in support and memoriam for the six teens who committed suicide due to bullying because they were gay.

The rally comes in the wake of the August 12 hearing in Tampa when The State of Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission unanimously upheld a negotiated Settlement Agreement in the Verdugo discrimination case and allowed Mr. Verdugo to retain his State certification as a law enforcement officer.

"It was an important victory and first step in vindicating Mikey, but there's a long way yet to go," Castrataro stated. Castrataro's argument had prevailed that the City of Hollywood's intervention into the previously negotiated settlement was inappropriate and improper.

"In Florida, employment and advancement are still hindered by prejudice. Too many people, both straight and gay, do not realize that it's still possible to fire someone without cause!" Mr. Castrataro said. "Mikey's fight illustrates the need to pass the ENDA without further delay. His plight serves as a powerful reminder that discrimination is real and must end. Passage of the bill would have far-reaching effects." Castrataro has long been active in working with the Broward County Commission on local human rights issues.

ENDA is a comprehensive remedy to address the lack of state and local protection afforded to American LGBT workers. Under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, all Americans have the right to equal protection. This protection includes employment, guaranteeing that the government not discriminate in its employment practices, but the lack of state and local protections exacerbates the widespread discrimination that LGBT workers experience by all types of employers. These affected employees have no adequate remedy in federal law. ENDA would provide critically needed job protections for the entire community – including those most vulnerable to discrimination. There has been no movement on ENDA in the House in recent months.

Read more about ENDA and the Verdugo case below.

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ENDA in a Nutshell

The Problem:

Florida is one of 38 states that do not have employment laws that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation only. Transgendered people are thus far not included in non-discrimination laws and do not have statutory protection in a large majority of jurisdictions.

The Solution:

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is a proposed bill in Congress that would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for civilian nonreligious employers with over 15 employees.

1. ENDA extends federal employment discrimination protections currently provided based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability to sexual orientation and gender identity.

2. It prohibits public and private employers, employment agencies and labor unions from using an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for employment decisions, such as hiring, firing, promotion or compensation.

3. It provides for the same procedures, and similar, but somewhat more limited, remedies as are permitted under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

4. It applies to Congress and the federal government, as well as employees of state and local governments.

5. It provides remedies for those people discriminated against. Acts of retaliation against those people who enforce their rights or support those who enforce their rights under ENDA are prohibited. Any acts of coercion, such as intimidation, threats, or interference with exercising the rights protected under ENDA are violations of the act.

Status of the Bill:

ENDA has been introduced in every Congress, except the 109th, since 1994, albeit without gender identity protections.

1. ENDA was introduced in the 111th Congress by Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in the House.

2. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

3. On September 23, 2009, the House Education and Labor Committee held a full committee hearing in the House on the legislation.

4. On November 5, 2009, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) also held a hearing on the bill.

5. On March 18th, 2010, after GetEQUAL protested for the passage of ENDA in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) office, Chairman Miller (asked by LGBT newspaper the Washington Blade when he would move the legislation through his committee) replied, "Right after healthcare." According to GetEQUAL, "The ENDA legislation has still seen no movement in the House, and healthcare reform passed Congress on March 22nd."

Verdugo Case Background – Status 10-8-2010

Michael Verdugo's story is shared by countless Americans who have lost their jobs and careers simply because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Intro to Mikey's Story:

As an openly gay police officer, Mikey faced the challenges of working in a paramilitary world that still harbors resentment and animus towards the GLBT community. During his tenure, he stood up and filed sexual harassment complaints about a discriminatory hostile work environment. They were sustained. His bosses were ordered to sensitivity training, supervisors admonished. However, some people don't get angry. They get even.

Getting Revenge on Mikey:

Because those supervisors wanted their pound of flesh and revenge, they orchestrated a specious and conspiratorial scheme to get rid of Verdugo, superficially alleging his application for employment years before he failed to disclose his 'employment'. They put him on 'administrative leave,' eventually fired him and even tried to force the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to revoke his law enforcement officer certification.

Mikey Fights Back:

For several months we have been engaged in two legal battles to protect Mikey and to overcome GLBT discrimination in the workplace. The first battle has been against the City of Hollywood for their wrongful termination of Mikey. This battle is set to unfold in our first hearing in November of 2010. The second battle has been to ensure Mikey's Florida certification as a law enforcement officer was protected. On May 17, 2010, we were thrilled to reach a settlement agreement with the attorneys at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement wherein Mikey's Certification as a law enforcement officer would be preserved. The settlement affirmed to a large extent that Mikey's conduct was not outrageous or severe as the City contended and ensured his license would not be revoked. The settlement seriously undermined the City of Hollywood's arguments and, I believe, further exposed the homophobic motivations behind their dismissal of Mikey and subsequent legal battle. The settlement and subsequent hearing in Tampa established that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was not willing to support the City of Hollywood in their homophobic witch hunt against Mikey.

The City Spares No Expense in Their War

The City of Hollywood could not stand back and allow the attorneys at FDLE to do their jobs and let justice unfold. Rather the City opposed the settlement. The City's unprecedented war against Mikey reflects the institutional discrimination that continues to reinforce harmful bias against the GLBT community. Equally disturbing is the City's willingness to waste thousands of tax payer dollars in enacting their war.