On Nov. 7, 2013, the U.S. Senate voted 64-32 to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which bans employment discrimination against LGBT individuals. California residents should be aware of the history of ENDA and the protections that it would offer to LGBT individuals in the workplace if it is also passed by the House of Representatives.
Several attempts to pass ENDA
ENDA has a long history in the U.S. federal government. In 1994, Sen. Ted Kennedy first proposed a version of ENDA in the Senate. Kennedy kept reintroducing the measure each session, even though the bill never passed. Prior to his death in 2009, Kennedy asked his associate, Sen. Jeff Merkley, to carry on with his work. The Senate saw a version of ENDA proposed in every session since 1996, except the 109th session.
In 2007, the House of Representatives passed a version of ENDA, but that bill did not have the protections for transgender employees that the current version of ENDA includes.
ENDA protections for LGBT individuals
It is already illegal in the U.S. to discriminate in employment decisions based upon race, age, disability, color, sex, nationality or religion. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not areas from which people are protected from employment discrimination by federal law. While California state law offers protections against employment discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity, 29 states do not offer such protections for LGBT employees.
ENDA would make it illegal to discriminate in employment decisions based a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity under federal law. ENDA also protects employees from discrimination in the workplace for associating with others who are gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual. ENDA also has provisions protecting employees who report discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity from retaliation.
ENDA would apply to all federal, state and local government agencies, unions, employment agencies and private employers with 15 or more employees. Religious institutions are exempt from ENDA’s provisions, and the bill specifically states that these institutions will not be subject to penalty or discrimination for not adhering to ENDA.
While the struggle to pass legislation at the federal level to protect LGBT people in the workplace continues, California residents are afforded protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity at the state level. If you have suffered discrimination at work because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, speak with an experienced California employment law attorney who can advise you about your specific situation.