Employment Non-Discrimination Act

  • April 25, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Once again lawmakers in Congress have introduced legislation intended to advance equality for LGBT people, this time with a few more Republicans on board and in an atmosphere of heightened public support.

    The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would prohibit employers from discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. As noted earlier this week, other variations of ENDA have languished in past congressional sessions. But the effort – to outlaw employment discrimination of LGBT people – is integral to advancing equality. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering cases involving marriage equality and nine states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages. Rhode Island and Delaware state lawmakers are considering legislation to allow same-sex couples to wed. (Rhode Island’s Senate has approved a marriage equality bill.)

    So while there has been positive movement on marriage equality -- though a setback could be forthcoming depending on the how the Roberts Court handles the cases before it – efforts to bar employment discrimination against LGBT persons have seen more mixed results. As the ACLU notes more than 30 states include laws that fail to provide LGBT people solid protection from employment discrimination.

    But Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in a press statement announcing the introduction of ENDA sounded an upbeat note, saying that “bipartisan coalitions” in both chambers are supporting the measure. Merkley’s statement concludes, “In a sign of the growing momentum to end discrimination against LGBT Americans, the Senate sponsors expect the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee” to take action on the legislation in this Congress.

    The ACLU, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center issued a statement today concluding, in part, that in a “country that values fairness and equal treatment under the law, we believe the current situation is unacceptable.” That situation centers on the fact that there remain far too many states without protections against employment discrimination of LGBT people.

  • April 23, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Marriage equality as significant as it is should hardly be viewed as the crown jewel of the movement for LGBT equality.

    Nevertheless with the coverage given to the two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court -- both centering on marriage equality concerns -- one might be lulled into thinking that if and when government recognizes same-sex marriages in the same way it does opposite-sex marriages the nation will be so much closer to its lofty promise of equal rights. But such thinking would be as lazy as it is delusional.

    As noted here last year, Kate Redburn in a post for Jacobin’s blog blasted the obsession over marriage equality as being “designed to distract liberal consciences and give Democrats political cover to gut social services.” And then she went onto to note examples, such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision last year to gut funding for homeless shelters, noting that in NYC 40 percent of the homeless are LGBT youth. Redburn also remarked that only “the most privileged among us could possibly see the fight for the right to party [a wedding celebration] as a movement for social justice.”

    Besides, as this blog has noted, it is far from certain the Supreme Court controlled by right-wing justices will grant a sweeping victory for marriage equality anyway. (Instead it is possible the high court will toss Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, on standing, and rule in U.S. v. Windsor  a major provision of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act encroaches on states’ rights or federalism grounds. Thus it is very likely the conservative Supreme Court won’t get near the question of whether laws that celebrate heterosexual marriages and denigrate same-sex relationships violate equal rights).

    But as money, time and energy are funneled into marriage equality, other groups and lawmakers are striving to move forward on other fronts for equality. For example, earlier this year, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced legislation intended to ensure LGBT military families are treated in similar fashion to their straight counterparts.

    And later this week, congressional lawmakers will introduce other measures aimed at advancing equality, such as another effort to outlaw workplace discrimination against people because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. At the moment a little more than a dozen states ban employers from hiring and firing people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

    Reporting for the Washington Blade, Chris Johnson says members of both chambers will later this week introduce, once again, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or ENDA. The bill was first introduced in 1994 and has languished in every Congress it was introduced. The measure if enacted would prohibit employers from hiring and firing people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. As Johnson, reports, however, the bill has been a work in progress and could still use some tweaks to block employers, including religious ones, from discriminating against the LGBT community in the workforce.

  • June 14, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Ian S. Thompson, Washington Legislative Office & Dena Sher, Washington Legislative Office. This analysis is cross-posted at the ACLU blog Washington Markup.


    On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held an important hearing on workplace discrimination experienced by those who are or perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). The hearing addressed the need for federal legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), to create uniform protections for LGBT people in the workplace.   The sad reality remains that it is legal to fire or refuse to hire workers based on sexual orientation in 29 states and gender identity in 34 states.

    The ACLU has long championed ENDA: American workers – who stand side-by-side in the workplace and contribute with equal measure in their jobs – should be able to stand on equal footing under the law. While our support for this essential legislation remains unchanged, we voiced concerns about two provisions. Things have changed in the nearly two decades since ENDA was first introduced and we believe the bill should be updated to reflect this reality. 

  • May 10, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Lisa Mottet, Transgender Civil Rights Project Director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force


    Though garnering less attention than North Carolina's disheartening constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and President Obama's monumental announcement to support same-sex marriage, another recent piece of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) news deserves significant attention.

    In what is accurately hailed as a game-changing decision for the LGBT community, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in April (Macy v. Holder) that transgender people are protected by Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination in the workplace.

    The precedential decision involved Mia Macy, a transgender woman represented by Transgender Law Center who was all but officially hired by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) when, after she told them she is transgender, she was told the position had been cut due to funding. ATF actually hired someone else and Mia lost her home as a result of the lost job opportunity.

    When ATF discriminated against Mia she became part of the horrifying statistics on employment discrimination faced by transgender people. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey: 26 percent lost a job for being transgender; 50 percent were harassed at work; and many others face humiliation, have their privacy breached, and are denied access to appropriate restrooms. Overall, 78 percent have experienced mistreatment, harassment, or discrimination on the job.

  • April 1, 2011

    Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are trying yet again to advance a measure to prohibit employers from discriminating against workers because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

    Rep. Barney Frank announced introduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) earlier this week. The measure, The Rainbow Times reports, has received wide public support, and President Obama has also said he would sign such a bill.

    Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart lauded the renewed effort, saying, “It is long past time to address this inequality and pass a law that provides fairness for workers without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.”

    Rea Carey, head of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said, “ENDA’s passage is long overdue. Our community has provided numbers and personal stories, and we have endured as we’ve watched LGBT workers lose their foothold in a struggling economy – not because of downsizing, or poor performance or shuttered businesses – but because of prejudice and because there are no institutional consequences to arbitrary and unethical behavior by individuals and businesses who would exclude LGBT people from the basic tenets of our democracy.”

    University of North Carolina law school professor Maxine Eichner wrote in an ACS Issue Brief that 29 states, including the entire South, “afford no employment discrimination for gays and lesbians,” and that the 21 state laws aimed at preventing discrimination “are significantly limited in scope.”

    Eichner cited a CareerBuilder.com study showing that 28 percent of LGBT workers reported facing workplace discrimination. “In one reported case,” she wrote, “a gay maintenance worker had his hands and feet bound by his co-workers. In another, a transgender corrections officer was smashed into a concrete wall. Further accounts of LGBT workers who are subjected to harassing comments and unequal working conditions once their status was discovered abound.”