LGBT-supportive Labor Secretary Hilda Solis stepping down

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis this week announced that she has turned in her resignation letter to President Obama and would be leaving. The departure of Secretary Solis means the loss of a strong voice on behalf of LGBT workers both inside and outside Department of Labor.

Over the past four years that the secretary has led the department, there have been several positive steps to recognize the needs and contributions of LGBT people to the workforce. Early on, changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) made it possible for domestic partners to use medical leave to care for their children, and the department’s internal Equal Employment Opportunity statement was amended to include gender identity.

Additionally, the department began collecting information on employers that provide health benefits to domestic partners and same-sex spouses of employees and how LGBT people access FMLA time.

The secretary has been personally vocal about her commitment to LGBT concerns, issuing multiple Pride Month and Transgender Day of Remembrance statements over the years. After incidents involving the defacement of Pride Month posters, she sent out a notice to Department of Labor employees calling for respect and tolerance of the contributions that all personnel, including those who identify as LGBT, bring to the mission of the department.

The Task Force thanks Secretary Solis for being a strong supporter of the community and looks forward to her next steps. We honored her at our annual Pink & Purple celebration in 2011 for her outspoken support for the community.

The Task Force calls on the next labor secretary to finish the job of securing equality through departmental policies. There is still much more to do — from protecting the LGBT employees of federal contractors through an executive order, data collection that includes the transgender community and better protections for young people and the unemployed in programs like Job Corps and One-Stop Centers — with the Department of Labor to give LGBT people across the country the right to work free from harassment and fear of discrimination. Given the amount of work that remains to be done, we urge President Obama to nominate another strong advocate for the LGBT community to replace Secretary Solis during his second term.