The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions is set to reopen discussion on a bill that prevents non-religious employers from discriminating against people due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Workplace discrimination remains a widespread issue across the nation.

According to a recent study by the Williams Institute at the University of California, an astounding 78 percent of transgendered people have reported experiencing harassment during their employment. Homosexuals and bisexuals have also reported high rates of workplace discrimination at approximately 42 percent of those surveyed.

The committee is reopening discussion of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which is a bill that has been introduced in almost every Congress since 1994. In 2007 a version which was stripped of the protections afforded to transgendered people passed through the House, but was ultimately killed in the Senate. A letter sent by several Senators prompted the committee to reexamine ENDA in hopes of finally passing the legislation into law.

Although committee chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa wishes for the bill to move through the committee in a timely manner, he did not set any time frame as a goal. Also, no Republicans attended the hearing, which was supposed to be a full committee hearing. This creates some doubt as to how successful the bill will be in garnering bipartisan support.

Currently, the District of Columbia and 21 states, including California have laws making employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation illegal. Some 16 states, as well as the District of Columbia also ban workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Employers who break these laws can be sued by victims in a civil suit.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Man tells senators transgendered people ‘lose their careers’,” Jamie Goldberg, June 12, 2012