Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson and Susan Thomas, educator, foundation leader and wife of the late U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, have joined several Wyoming business leaders in a push to advance workplace anti-discrimination measures in Wyoming.

The new advocacy organization, Compete Wyoming, notes that in Wyoming it is not illegal for some employers to discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Not only is this discrimination wrong, it places Wyoming businesses — which compete with other states for talent — at a serious disadvantage, the group says.

Compete Wyoming will push for legislation to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Wyoming’s anti-discrimination laws.

“It’s sure not the Wyoming way of life I have known in 83 years of living here – to be filled with hate and want to hurt and bully our fellow workers and citizens. Enough. Stop it now!!” Simpson stated in a press release.

Compete Wyoming board member Jan Larimer is also former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee and longtime Wyoming GOP leader. Larimer said in a prepared statement, “If Wyoming wants to compete on the global stage we need to recruit the best and the brightest to live and work here. We don’t do that by asking about age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. We do it by asking if they can get the job done. That’s the Wyoming way.”

The organization announced its formation and mission last week, along with a statewide survey that suggests no matter how Wyomingites feel about same-sex marriage there is a strong majority that supports adding protections against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Compete Wyoming also said there are several examples of egregious discrimination cases in Wyoming. Alleged incidents brought to the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services include a worker tied naked to the front of a work field vehicle while co-workers played “chicken” with his life; human waste placed into lunch boxes and lockers; and workers being fired just for being gay, despite meritorious job performance, according to Compete Wyoming.

WyoFile confirmed the claims with Workforce Services. Cherie Doak, deputy administrator of Labor Standards Division, said the department receives approximately 30 to 40 inquiries per year regarding workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification.

Doak said under current Wyoming law it’s extremely difficult to pursue action on such claims. Most people who report discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual identity get frustrated with the limited scope in which the state can pursue a case, and they eventually give up trying.

“It happens a lot with sexual orientation cases,” Doak said. “Unfortunately, it’s an ugly process. … It makes people’s lives miserable.”

Compete Wyoming board member Dave Teubner, CEO of Warehouse Twenty-One, said in a prepared statement, “While our business operates in Wyoming, we compete nationally for customers and clients. We need the best programmers and design talent we can find.

“By not having a policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the state is only adding to our burden of recruiting the best and potentially forcing businesses to move to other states where the resource pool is much larger, and their state policy far more up-to-date.”

Compete Wyoming announced its honorary board members this week. They are:

Alan K. Simpson, retired U.S. Senator
Jan Larimer, Former National RNC Co-Chair and former Wyoming GOP National Committeewoman
Susan Thomas, educator, foundation leader and wife of the late U.S. Senator Craig Thomas
Shawn Mills, CEO & Founder, Green House Data
Dave Teubner, CEO of Warehouse Twenty-one
John Pope, CEO of WellDog
Nancy Binks Lyman, Account Manager, CenturyLink
Lynn Birleffi, former head of the Wyoming Retail Association and Wyoming Restaurant and Lodging Association
Bryan Pedersen, Head of Pedersen Investment Group and former Wyoming House Representative
Dave O’Malley, Albany Co. Sheriff, incoming President of the Wyoming Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Association

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 25 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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