Proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act Awaits Further Action in Congress

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.

ENDA prohibits public and private employers, employment agencies and labor unions from considering an individual’s sexual orientation in making employment decisions. ENDA does not apply to religious organizations or employers with fewer than 15 employees. It also does not apply to uniformeed members of the armed forces.
In 2002, the New York State legislature amended the Human Rights Law to include protection for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. New York City’s Human Rights Law has long prohibted sexual orientation discrimination. The passge of ENDA would benefit those employees living in states or municipalities that have not enacted laws banning sexual orientation discrimination.
ENDA would reinforce the public policy of encouraging employers to render employment decisions on the basis of qualifications, performance and merit, as opposed to considerations that do not in any way affect an employer’s ability to perform the functions of a job.

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