Employment Non-Discrimination Act to Be Weighed by Congress

A federal push to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees is quickly gaining steam among lawmakers, with all but two Democrats in the Senate signing on to co-sponsor the legislation. twobusinessmen

Our Costa Mesa LBGT discrimination attorneys know that in California, it is illegal to discriminate a worker or potential worker on the basis of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. We are fortunate to have one of the most comprehensive protection laws in the country.

However, while federal employment law protects workers from discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, age, disability or nationality, it does not shield workers who face adverse employment action as a result of their LGBT status. This is a gaping hole in terms of worker protections, and one that legislators appear finally poised to close.

The bill, called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, or ENDA, has been introduced numerous times in previous years, but has been shot down each time. This time around could well be different.

A recent Gallup Poll found that more than half of all Americans believe same-sex marriage should be legal in all states, while 42 percent are opposed. Among those 64 and younger, the support for such unions reaches nearly 75 percent.

In addition to that, the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year ruled the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. Now, same-sex couples are no longer barred from receiving marriage benefits at the federal level.

At the state level, it’s much more of a wild card. Fourteen have legalized same-sex marriage (including California in June of this year), while 35 have banned it. New Mexico is the only state with no law pertaining to the issue.

The passage of workplace protections for LGBT employees at the federal level may reflect the gradual shift in the public’s opinion regarding such issues. Presumably, it could be easier for Republican lawmakers to support an anti-discrimination measures as opposed to a gay marriage measure, the latter being far more fraught with religious implications.

Even a number of Republican senators are being courted for their support on the measure. Already, Republican senators from both Utah and Alaska voted to advance the bill earlier this year, though they hadn’t signed on as co-sponsors. It’s expected that Republican senators from New Hampshire, Arizona, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania will offer up their support as well when it comes time for a final vote.

Previous forms of the bill did not contain protections for transgender persons. This one does.

Although similar measures have been reintroduced to Congress many times, it hasn’t reached a vote on either the Senator or House Floor since late 2007. At that time, it passed the House 235-184.

However, that kind of support is not so certain this time around, given that the House is now controlled by Republicans.

In addition to state laws that offer varied protection for LGBT workers, data from the Senate’s Health, Education, Pensions and Labor Committee reveal that some 88 percent of Fortune 500 firms have discrimination policies that encompass sexual orientation. Another nearly 60 percent have language that bans discrimination on individuals on the basis of gender identity.

However, many smaller companies lack those kinds of provisions. Even those that have such measures in place don’t always train employees sufficiently enough to ensure those policies are followed.

Costa Mesa LGBT employment lawsuits can be filed with the help of the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Bill Nelson Backs ENDA, Leaving Just Two Democratic Holdouts, Oct. 29, 2013, By Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post

More Blog Entries:

California’s Top Employment Law Mistakes, Oct. 26, 2013, Orange County Employment Lawyer Blog