Monday, January 30, 2017

Trump’s un-American travel ban and the workplace


I’ve had an internal debate all weekend long over whether I should blog about Trump’s executive order that that bans immigration from seven Muslim countries, suspends refugees for 120 days, and bars all Syrian refugees indefinitely. Ultimately, I decided that if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem, and this issue is too important to remain silent. I choose to be on the correct side of history.

If you are a staunch defender of the President who does not care to read an opposing view, I suggest you stop reading now, and come back tomorrow for a more benign post. Or, better yet, post a comment and let’s have an intelligent debate about this issue. And, if you choose to unfollow or unfriend me because of my opinion, you are more than welcome to do that too. This is still America, and I respect your right to have an opinion even if I disagree with it. I hope, however, that you show me and my opinion the same respect and patriotism that I would show you and yours.

This issue, however, is not left issue, or a right issue, or a Democrat issue, or a Republican issue. It’s also not a legal issue, even though the courts will ultimately decide its fate.

Instead, it’s a moral issue; it’s an American issue. It’s how we choose to define ourselves as Americans. It’s who we are, and, perhaps more importantly, who we choose to be, as a nation.

I am proud that members of my profession have taken a stand, appearing at airports at all hours of the weekend to help those detained and facing deportation. I am proud of those that marched nationwide to protest Trump and his actions. And I am proud of the judge (now judges) that stood up to block this action, albeit temporarily.

As for employers (this is an employment law blog, after all), some have chosen to take a stand.

For example, my alma mater, Binghamton University:
We know that these are difficult circumstances, leaving many of us concerned. Binghamton University remains committed to the continued success of all of our students, regardless of religious belief, country of birth or citizenship, and we are here to provide all students and faculty with support through this difficult time.
And Google:
We’re concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that create barriers to bringing great talent to the U.S. We’ll continue to make our views on these issues known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere.
And Microsoft:
We believe that immigration laws can and should protect the public without sacrificing people’s freedom of expression or religion. And we believe in the importance of protecting legitimate and law-abiding refugees whose very lives may be at stake in immigration proceedings.
And Netflix:
Trump’s actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all. Worse, these actions will make America less safe (through hatred and loss of allies) rather than more safe. A very sad week, and more to come with the lives of over 600,000 Dreamers here in a America under imminent threat. It is time to link arms together to protect American values of freedom and opportunity.
And Facebook:
We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help. That’s who we are.
And Apple:
As I’ve said many times, diversity makes our team stronger. And if there’s one thing I know about the people at Apple, it’s the depth of our empathy and support for one another. It’s as important now as it’s ever been, and it will not weaken one bit. I know I can count on all of you to make sure everyone at Apple feels welcome, respected and valued. Apple is open. Open to everyone, no matter where they come from, which language they speak, who they love or how they worship.
And others, like Starbucks, which promised to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years, and Lyft, which has pledged $1M to the ACLU.

What about your workplace? How you choose to respond is a decision I cannot make for you. It will depend on your political beliefs, moral constitution, and the composition of your workforce. Know, however, that the issues of national original discrimination and religious discrimination are very much on the EEOC’s radar, and its recently appointed acting chair, Victoria Lipnic, likely will not deviate much, if at all, from this focus.

In the aftermath of the November 2015 Paris attack, I wrote the following:
We cannot let this type of discrimination again pervade our workplaces, no matter how angry we are over the murderous crimes of a few acting in the name of Islam. … 
No doubt, we live in scary times. Some will tell you (and I don’t necessarily disagree) that we are amid the third world war (even if it looks very different than any war we’ve fought before). One of this war’s battle-lines will be drawn at the ballot box over the issues of immigration and immigrant rights. We must resist the urge to fight this war in our workplaces by harassing and otherwise discriminating against those who have the right to work, and enjoy that right free from discrimination and harassment.
Oh how I hate being correct in this case.

I will leave you with this thought. The plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty reads:
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
In celebrating the centennial of the statue in 1986, President Reagan famously noted that liberty “is of foreign birth.”

I remain convinced that inscription, and President Reagan’s words, are America. To my readers, prove me right, that we, as a nation, are better than, and not defined by, this Executive Order.

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