California Labor and Employment Defense Blog

Battle Over "Employment Non-Discrimination Act" Heating Up In Congress

In April 2007, the "Employment Non-Discrimination Act" ("ENDA") was introduced in the House of Representatives. The ENDA will, among other things:
  • extend federal employment discrimination protections currently provided based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability to sexual orientation and gender identity. (These terms are defined in the bill to include gay men, lesbians, bi-sexuals, and transgender persons);
  • prohibit public and private employers, employment agencies and labor unions from using an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for employment decisions (i.e., hiring, firing, promotion, or compensation); and
  • would apply to Congress and the federal government, as well as to employees of state and local governments.
Although the ENDA does apply to businesses with 15 or fewer employees, it does not apply retroactively. In addition, it does not apply to uniformed members of the armed forces nor does it allow for quotas based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Click here to read more on the ENDA from the proponents point of view, and here for the position of various groups opposing the bill.

Apparently, Congressional Democrats are "strongly considering" dropping anti-discrimination protections for transgendered persons from the bill due to stronger than expected opposition to that provision. Congressional observers claim that even if ENDA passes the House, it likely faces a filibuster in the Senate and it is unclear whether supporters have the required 60-votes to pass the bill.

While this bill is making a lot of news on the national level, it does not appear that California employers will be greatly effected if the bill is passed, as sexual orientation is already a protected category under California law.  See California Government Code § 12940 (defining sexual orientation as “heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality”). 

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