In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama provided America with some insights into his beliefs and his agenda, which will significantly affect today's workplace. Fittingly scheduled on a day that honored the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Obama highlighted the progress of the nation when it comes to civil rights and fulfilling the words of the Constitution and our Founding Fathers. Obama showed Americans that he cares deeply about civil rights and equal opportunity regardless of sex, creed, race, color or sexual orientation as he proclaimed:
"We the people declare today that the most evident of truth -that all of us are created equal - is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth."
Obama compared the struggle for gay rights and the Stonewall riots to the struggle for women's rights at Seneca Falls and civil rights in the Deep South during the 1960s.
With the US Supreme Court set to hear arguments in March 2013 on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 and decide whether there is a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage, it is clear that Obama hopes to leave a legacy promoting gay rights and equality as well as the legalization of same-sex marriage. "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well."
Further, Obama solidified his views regarding immigration: "Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country." In 2012, the Obama administration introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which provides that young individuals who were brought into the United States as children and who meet certain criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the United States or from entering into removal proceedings. Further, Obama supports the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act), a proposal that would provide conditional permanent residence to certain undocumented residents of good moral character, and who graduated from a US high school, arrived in the US as a minor and lived in the US continually for at least five years. It is clear that he intends to continue his support of policies that will ease the path to citizenship, and this could have significant effects on the American workforce.
Obama also showed that he will focus on the issue of gun control as well as safety in schools and in the workplace. "Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm." In fact, just prior to his inauguration, Obama proposed significant gun control measures and signed Executive Orders regarding gun control and criminal background checks. It appears as if Obama and his administration will carry on this work throughout his second term.
Lastly, Obama showed support for continuing the fight for equal pay for women, "for our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts." Obama has already shown significant support for equal pay for women with the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009. Further, both the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Pay Act have been introduced in the US Congress. With the President's support and the EEOC's focus on equal pay, it is likely that these legislative measures may be revisited.
As a result, employers need to be aware of these issues and adequately prepare for the challenges that lie ahead and the workplace of tomorrow.
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