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December 21, 2014

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Everyone’s a winner with act to end workplace bias

Over the past three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to play a role in growing Las Vegas’ business community and helping maintain the vibrancy our great city is known for. Perhaps nowhere else in our nation is the connection between booming business and sustainable communities as apparent as it is here. We all know that the economic growth of our neighborhoods depends on small and large businesses.

Business is in my blood. From my family’s supermarkets, to the automobile dealerships I oversaw, to the public-private economic partnerships I built during my tenure as mayor of Las Vegas to fundamentally strengthen our community. You can imagine just how seriously — and personally — I take matters related to smart business decisions.

That’s why I’m proud to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), federal legislation that would protect hardworking gay and transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace based on nothing more than their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s hard to believe, but right now, in most places in America, there aren’t state laws that protect gay and transgender people from losing their jobs just because of who they are.

In Las Vegas, the concept of working hard and putting food on the table is something we all can relate to. The foundational value underpinning this very American concept is that opportunities for employment are not contingent on who we are but on how well we do our jobs — on our merits and job performance. And this is what ENDA is all about. The bill ensures gay and transgender employees are judged on their job performance, nothing more, nothing less — the same as we have done for race, religion, gender and disability.

At Caesars Entertainment, we’ve long valued a diverse workforce where all of our employees know they will be judged on their talent. That’s why we spoke out early on ENDA, as part of the Human Rights Campaign’s Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness. We’re proud to join more than 100 other Fortune 500 and major businesses supporting ENDA. It’s not just gaming, resort and entertainment businesses that back ENDA — we’re talking about major financial firms, manufacturers, tech companies; all coming together to send a powerful message that ENDA is good for business. This is a sentiment I’ve seen play out while I had the privilege of serving as mayor, and it’s a fact that has guided many of our business decisions at Caesars.

Business-minded leaders aren’t the only ones making the case for ENDA. The legislation has massive bipartisan support from Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill and in states across the country. A recent survey from a prominent GOP pollster who has worked for Republican presidential campaigns found support for ENDA at nearly 70 percent nationwide, including 56 percent of Republicans. The survey also included unique modeling projections that estimate support for ENDA to stand at a strong 66 percent here in Nevada. The poll results speak for themselves: everyone can relate to the Golden Rule — treating others the way we’d want to be treated. And who among us would want to be denied the opportunity to earn a paycheck not because of our level of skill or passion, but simply because of our sexual orientation.

For too many gay and transgender Americans across the country, that is a devastating obstacle they must navigate.

Our own Sen. Harry Reid supports the bill and has said he wants to bring it up for a vote. But we still need Sen. Dean Heller to voice his support for this common-sense legislation. I am optimistic that Heller will do the right thing and support ENDA — particularly when he sees how popular ENDA is with virtually every demographic of his constituency.

As mayor, I worked hard to improve our city by building diverse coalitions that successfully affected real change. That’s why I’m so excited by the hugely diverse, bipartisan group that has come together to pass ENDA — it’s a recipe for success. As a business leader and former mayor, I’m proud to stand with the myriad Las Vegans from all walks of life who support the basic opportunity to work for every American. ENDA is a big win for both business and for hard-working Nevada families.

Jan Jones is a former two-term mayor of Las Vegas and the executive vice president of communications and government relations for Caesars Entertainment.

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