Governor McAuliffe announced on Monday a series of legislative proposals aimed at ensuring that every Virginian has equal opportunity to succeed and contribute to the Commonwealth’s economic growth. The policies outlined in the Governor’s Equal Opportunity Agenda build upon the progress the McAuliffe Administration has made during its first year to create an environment that is open and welcoming to all who want to live, work, or start their businesses here.
“In a new Virginia economy, we need to be able to attract the best and brightest entrepreneurs here, build a workforce for the 21st Century, and ensure that the next generation of Virginians has greater opportunity to succeed,” stated Governor McAuliffe. “All that depends on having a business-friendly environment where every Virginian is treated equally and fairly under the law, no matter their background, gender, or whom they love.”
Governor McAuliffe’s full equal opportunity agenda is outlined below:
Create a more inclusive environment for LGBT Virginians and business owners: More than 90% of Fortune 500 companies have anti-discrimination clauses for LGBT employees, and Governor McAuliffe decided Virginia should do the same, which is why his first action in office was to ban discrimination in the state workforce based on sexual orientation. After Virginia legalized same-sex marriage, Governor McAuliffe immediately moved to ensure that same-sex spouses were entitled to the same benefits as other married couples, and today Governor McAuliffe is taking another step to ensure that Virginia’s laws do not discriminate by proposing that all sections of the Virginia code related to marriage that reference “man and woman” or “husband and wife” be changed to “spouse.”
Ensure that women are paid the same as men for equal work by strengthening Virginia’s equal pay laws: Today, women are paid just 79 cents for every dollar a man makes in Virginia. When women make up 50% of our population and our workforce, that isn’t just unacceptable; it’s hurting Virginia’s economic future. Governor McAuliffe is proposing to ensure that women are paid the same as men for equal work by raising the penalty that employers who have violated equal pay laws must pay from two to three times the lost wages of the employee.
Encourage all Virginians to achieve greater economic success by promoting safe work, school and home environments: Building a new Virginia economy is dependent on protecting all Virginians from the threat of sexual and domestic violence. Governor McAuliffe is proposing that Virginia address the issues of sexual assault on college campuses by directing the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to assist in the development of updated sexual misconduct policies at all Virginia public institutions of higher education by July 31, 2015. In developing these new policies, SCHEV is asked to take the Governor’s Task Force to Combat Sexual Violence on College Campuses’ recommendations into consideration. Additionally, the Governor is proposing that all public colleges and universities document on a student’s academic transcript any dismissal from the institution for violation of the school’s sexual misconduct policy, student code of conduct, or the university’s honor code.
Governor McAuliffe is also proposing that Virginia protect survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking by allowing them leave from work to do the following: seek treatment by a health care provider for injuries; seek services from shelters, rape crisis centers, and social services programs; receive mental health counseling; or plan to temporarily or permanently relocate for safety purposes. Governor McAuliffe’s proposal also extends this protection to survivors’ family members who are assisting them with any of the aforementioned actions.
Ensure a diverse and open business environment by taking politics out of health care decisions between women and their doctors: Governor McAuliffe believes that it is harmful to the Virginia economy when politicians inject themselves in decisions that should be left between a woman and her doctor. That is why Governor McAuliffe is proposing to repeal the 2012 Virginia law that requires all women to undergo a mandatory ultrasound before seeking pregnancy termination.