2010 Just the Beginning for ENDA?

Legislative Update: Employment Non-Discrimination Act



The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would create federal protections against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  The first version of the bill was introduced in 1994.  The latest version, introduced in June 2009, is currently in committee. The House Education and Labor Committee held a full committee hearing on the bill in September, and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on ENDA in November.

The Act, as proposed, would make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, refuse to promote, or refuse to compensate an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity. If passed, it would not apply to the military or to religious organizations and would exempt businesses with fewer than 15 employees. Further, the law doesn’t require employers to provide benefits to the same-sex partners of their workers. And law would not allow a “disparate impact” claim like the one available under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which means an employer wouldn’t have to justify a neutral practice, even though it might have a statistically disparate impact on individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In 29 states, employees can still be fired because of their sexual orientation, and discrimination against transgender people is legal in 38 states.  Illinois law provides protection for both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.  Florida state law provides none.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 87 percent of Fortune 500 companies have adopted polices barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Obama Administration, in tandem with the President’s support for the bill, recently added language to the federal jobs Web site that explicitly bans gender identity-based employment discrimination under the federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy. This is the first time that employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity has been explicitly banned by the federal government.

A link to the new policy can be found here.

Click here for a summary of LGBT laws by state

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