Articles Posted in Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Following a Senate vote earlier this week on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), proponents are bracing themselves for a tough fight in the House of Representatives.  ENDA proposes to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or identity in much the same way that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination on the basis of  race, color, religion, sex and national origin.  Currently, 22 states, including New York, have laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  In addition, New York City’s anti-discrimination law, which is perhaps one of the most progressive and powerful in the country, has long prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Although New York State’s Human Rights Law prohibits sexual orientation discrimination, the law does not provide for the recovery of attorneys’ fees, thus making it less likely that an aggrieved employee will take advantage of the protections that the Human Rights Law provides.  Conversely, New York City’s Human Rights Law does provide for the recovery of attorneys’ fees, thus making it a far more effective statute.  In addition to prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination, ENDA would make attorneys’ fees recoverable in sexual orientation discrimination cases, thus putting it on the same footing as other types of discrimination.

Nevertheless, ENDA may not become law because House leadership has stated that it will not bring the bill to a vote.  Thus, the nearly 40 year fight that was initiated by Representative Bella Abzug’s introduction of the Equality Act may continue.


Today, Governor David Patterson signed into law, the New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which reflects the first sweeping domestic workers’ rights legislation in the nation.
Among other things, the New York law provides for overtime pay to domestic workers, and protection against workplace discrimination and harassment based upon race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, marital status and domestic victim status. The legislation specifically addresses sexual harassment, which is cited as a major problem for domestic workers in New York.

The Senate and House are considering legislation to ban employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 is intended to amend Title VII, which currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin, religious discrimination. In addition, the bills would ban retaliation against an employee for complaining of sexual orientation discrimination.

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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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