Fighting for Civil and Equal Rights

All American citizens deserve equal rights and Rep. Stanley believes it’s time to end all forms of discrimination in our country. That’s why Rep. Stanley supports legislation and initiatives that support tolerance in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and help residents lead safer and more productive lives.

He is especially proud that this year, thanks to his support and the support of his colleagues in the legislature, legislation passed provides legal protections against discrimination related to gender identity or expression in public accommodations. With the passage of this bill, Massachusetts joins 17 other states in extending protections to transgender citizens in public accommodations – as public accommodations are fundamental to equal rights in America.

The 2016 legislation – which builds off of the 2011 Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Act prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, education, credit, and hate crimes – includes the right to use the restrooms and locker rooms that match an individual’s gender identity.  The bill represents both a fundamental civil rights milestone and a very real victory for the many residents for whom this law will have a significant and indisputable impact providing equal protection under the law to all – we are all equal under the law.

To provide clarity to businesses and help quell harassment of transgender individuals, the bill:

•       Directs the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination to adopt and promulgate policies regarding the implementation of the law.

•       Requires the Attorney General’s office to provide guidance on how to handle legal action if any person were to assert gender identity for an improper purpose.

•       Provides that public accommodations be included in places such as hotels, restaurants, retail stores, taxis and trains, bathrooms, parks and entertainment venues

A portion of the bill went effect immediately upon signing. The remainder of the bill will become effective October 1, 2016

Rep. Stanley also supported the Gender Wage Act which gives women across Massachusetts a level playing field in terms of equal pay.  The bill, which promotes salary transparency and encourages companies to conduct reviews to detect pay disparities, will give our state the strongest pay equity statute in the nation while helping dismantle the gender wage gap.

Men and women should receive equitable compensation for comparable work and this legislation will do that by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender.  The bill would prevent employers from requesting salary history in hiring, a measure designed to end the self-perpetuating cycle of wage disparity. Massachusetts would be the first state in the nation to adopt such a provision. However, prospective employees would not be barred from voluntarily disclosing their past salaries.

Additionally, the bill incentivizes companies to correct compensation disparities internally before going to court by creating three-year affirmative defense from liability. Within that time period employers must complete a self-evaluation of its pay practices and demonstrate reasonable progress in eliminating pay disparities.  Additionally, the bill prohibits employers from reducing salaries in order to comply with law and prohibits an employer from preventing employees from talking about their salaries.

It’s about time that we make gender wage gap history and this legislation is a huge leap forward in ensuring equal pay for equal work.

In the fiscal year 2017 budget debate, Rep. Stanley cosigned a letter to Conference Committee Members supporting the Senate’s inclusion of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), an Act relative to job creation, workforce development and infrastructure investment, and asking that this language be included in the final conference committee report.

The PWFA aims to rectify workplace injustice against pregnant women by amending the Massachusetts anti-discrimination statute, M.G.L. Chapter 151B, section 4, to include pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions, including the need to express breast milk for a nursing child. The PWFA protects pregnant workers against discrimination in the workplace by:

•       Prohibiting employers from not hiring or firing a worker from her job based on pregnancy;

•       Requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, including such accommodations as a stool to sit on, more frequent bathroom breaks, allowing the worker to carry a bottle of water, or providing a private non-bathroom space for lactation; and

•       Prohibiting an employer from requiring an employee to take paid or unpaid leave because of pregnancy. Overall, this legislation will promote women’s economic security, save taxpayers money in the form of unemployment insurance and other public benefits, and benefit employers in the form of reduced turnover and increased productivity.

Rep. Stanley has supported and cosponsored House Bill 784, legislation providing for equitable coverage in disability policies. The bill would prohibit gender discrimination in disability, accident or sickness insurance policies.  The bill would require that all disability policies be gender-neutral.  Currently women pay more for a policy even though they perform the same job and this bill would end that discrimination.

In 2004, Rep. Stanley and the Massachusetts Legislature addressed the issue of same-sex civil marriage in a Constitutional Convention (The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Following the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s (SJC) decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry.  Rep. Stanley agreed with the SJC’s decision and felt that the proposed amendment would have inserted discrimination into the state Constitution and voted not to ban civil same-sex marriages. Since that time, more than 20,000 same-sex couples have married in the Commonwealth.