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The proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (“ENDA”) is a federal bill intended to address employment discrimination by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or promote employees based upon their sexual orientation. An earlier version of the bill sought to include protection from gender identity discrimination. That provision was stripped from the bill due to a lack of support in the House of Representatives for transgender protection. On November 7, 2007, the House passed ENDA by a vote of 235-184. Currently, ENDA awaits introduction to the Senate.

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Last week Congress enacted the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Among other things, the Act contains a new protection for employees of manufacturers and retailers who do any of the following: (1) provide information to the employer, federal government or attorney general of a state, relating to any violation of the Act or any statutes enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission; (2) testify or are about to testify in a proceeding concerning such a violation; (3) assist or participate (or seek to) in such a proceeding; or (4) object to participating in any such activity.

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Last month, New York’s high court in Reddington v. Staten Island University Hospital limited the scope of New York’s Health Care Whistleblower law in response to a question concerning its scope certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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Last year, New York State Governor Spitzer signed into effect an amendment to the New York Labor Law by adding section 206-c, the Rights of Nursing Mothers to Express Breast Milk. Applicable to all New York State employers, regardless of size, this law requires that employers make reasonable efforts to allow employees to express breast milk for their nursing children.

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In Peters v. Gilead Securities Inc., the 7th Circuit sent out a warning to employers using employee handbooks, that their provisions may be held legally binding due to the contract liability theory of promissory estoppel. Specifically, the court ruled that although a company may not be subject to the Family Medical Leave Act they may still be liable if their Employee Handbook states employees are eligible for such a leave.

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The House of Representatives, reacting to congressional findings, has passed, 247- 178, the Paycheck Fairness Act– which aims to amend the Fair Labor and Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex. Reacting to findings that pay disparities between sexes have large negative effects on the economy and labor resources, the Paycheck Fairness Act will, if enacted, work toward removing the artificial barriers to the elimination of discrimination in the payment of wages.

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