What is the Employment non Discrimination Act

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was written to extend protections from discrimination to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). This would expand current Federal employment laws which already prohibit discrimination based on religion, race, gender, disability, national origin and age. No current Federal law consistently protects LGBT individuals from employment discrimination. In 29 states it is legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation and in 38 states it is legal to discriminate based on gender identity or expression (www.hrc.org).

The Act closely resembles current civil rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ENDA mimics Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination, preferential treatment and retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by employers with at least 15 employees. These employees must have worked full time for 20 or more weeks before an employer is bound by the law. ENDA prohibits public and private employers, employment agencies and labor unions from using a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation as a reason for employment decisions. Although the procedures are the same for ENDA and Title VII, ENDA’s remedies are more limited. This Act applies to the federal government, congress, and employees of local and state governments.

If ENDA is passed it will provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Preferential treatment and quotas are explicitly prohibited in the bill and disparate impact suits are also forbidden. Small businesses, religious organizations and the military are exempt from the bill. Domestic partner benefits are not required to be extended to same-sex partners of employees. The Act does not allow the imposition of affirmative action for a violation. It also does not allow the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to force employers to collect statistics on gender identity or sexual orientation and the commission cannot collect these statistics either. ENDA will not apply retroactively.

ENDA was drafted by Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass) and passed a house vote in the 110th congress. In order to gain more support the sponsors of the act decided to separate out the gender identity provision in September 2007. ENDA was introduced to the 111th congress by Barney Frank with 146 co-sponsors. Introduction of the bill to the senate is expected soon. President Obama has expressed support for an all inclusive version of ENDA and through a memorandum extended certain employee benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees (http://hr.cch.com/news/employment/070109a.asp).