What is ENDA?
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is the legislation proposed in the United States Congress that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This legislation pertains to all civilian, non-religious employers with at least 15 employees.
Why is ENDA necessary?
Most Americans are unaware that it is legal to discriminate against a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity under U.S. federal law. In a national Harris Poll on workplace culture commissioned by Out & Equal, 76% believe that workplace protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees already exist and 82% said these protections should exist. Yet in 29 states, it’s legal to fire someone simply for being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Employers can legally fire someone for being transgender in 33 states. If approved, ENDA would protect LGBT employees across the country from discrimination based on irrational prejudice.
Update: A Broken ENDA
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates joins the cascade of LGBT rights organizations – including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union and Pride at Work – in withdrawing our support of the Employment Non-Discrimination ACT (ENDA) as it is currently written.
The religious exemption is too broad, going far beyond the reasonable exemption that exists in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII already provides an ideal model for how to address religious needs in workplaces centered on religion.
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates know ENDA is needed to protect the millions of LGBT employees who have no workplace protections in 29 states (33 if transgender), but an ENDA that leaves so many people open to discrimination defeats the point. Out & Equal will only support an ENDA that provides the same religious exemption in Title VII that has worked well the past 50 years. LGBT employees deserve no less protection than what is already covered by sex and race.
Among the hundreds of corporations we work with that stand with Out & Equal for workplace equality, none use religious exemptions to decide who gets benefits. Most companies today understand that equality is good for business and we find it hopeful that corporations are becoming the new LGBT rights advocates. We saw it in Georgia and Arizona earlier this year when corporations blocked passage of anti-gay accommodation laws in the name of religious freedom. We are hopeful the same corporations will call for a stronger ENDA.
The Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling raises the stakes. What was initially described as a narrow ruling for family-run businesses in the matter of health care is quickly morphing into a license to discriminate against LGBT employees. Religious leaders immediately began lobbying President Obama to impose a broad religious exemption in his promised executive order protecting the LGBT employees of federal contractors.
It is important, now more than ever, that a strong federal law protect all LGBT employees. The current ENDA falls far too short.
Landmark report: A Broken Bargain
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates released a landmark report called “A Broken Bargain” that details how LGBT employees might have the same job as a coworker, yet be legally fired, denied equal benefits and required to pay thousands of dollars more in taxes simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. “A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits and More Taxes for LGBT Workers” illustrates how America’s basic bargain—that those who work hard can get ahead—is broken for LGBT workers. The report vividly demonstrates that antiquated and discriminatory laws make it harder for LGBT workers to provide for themselves and their families, and offers detailed policy recommendations for addressing those inequities.
The report was release in 2013 in partnership with the Movement Advancement Project, the Center for American Progress, the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Work, SEIU, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Partnership for Women and Families and the Small Business Majority.
History of ENDA
In 1974, on the fifth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Representatives Bella Abzug (D-NY) and Ed Koch (D-NY) introduced the Equality Act, which would have extended sexual orientation to the protected classes specified in the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. In the early 1990s, supporters of the legislation decided to focus on employment.
ENDA has been introduced every Congress since 1994, except the session from 2005 to 2006. Gender identity provisions were added to the bill in 2007.