U.S. House Holds Hearing on Employment Non-Discrimination Act

by Admin

Measure would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, praised the House Education and Labor Committee today for holding a full committee hearing on an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit employment discrimination, preferential treatment, and retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The lead sponsors of the measure are Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA), IIeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jared Polis (D-CO), Michael Castle (R-DE), George Miller (D-CA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John Conyers (D-MI), Todd Platts (R-PA), Rob Andrews (D-NJ), and Leonard Lance (R-NJ).

"Our jobs enable us to support our families, develop our talents, contribute to our communities and our country, and realize our dreams. But for far too many hardworking LGBT people, those pressures are intensified by the fear that they can be denied job opportunities, fired or otherwise be discriminated against just because of who they are," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, in written testimony for the hearing. "LGBT Americans, like everyone else, want their success to reflect their skills, ambition, and dedication. Because an employer may legally fire, refuse to hire, or fail to promote an employee based upon sexual orientation or gender identity in a majority of states, LGBT people are at a great disadvantage in the workplace."

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would address discrimination in the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote an employee based on the person's sexual orientation or gender identity at companies with 15 or more employees. The legislation was introduced in the U.S. House on June 24 of this year and a similar bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate on August 5. The bills reflect the values, shared by the vast majority of Americans, that employment decisions should be based on a person's qualifications and work ethic.

Witnesses from the hearing testifying in support included U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) Hon. Stuart J. Ishimaru, Acting Commissioner, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission William Eskridge, John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence, Yale Law School Vandy Beth Glenn, fired from her Georgia state legislative job when she told her supervisor she was transitioning from male to female Rabbi David Saperstein, director, the Religious Action Center and Brad Sears, executive director, Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law.

In late July, HRC launched a national, grassroots "No Excuses" campaign to demand action from Congress on key issues of equality, including ENDA. "No Excuses" continues to mobilize HRC's 750,000 members and their allies to meet directly with lawmakers and push for federal legislative change. Members and supporters can get involved by visiting: http://NoExcuses.HRC.org.

An estimated 87% of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their equal employment policies, and 41% also include gender identity. More than 60 companies have joined the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness, a group of leading U.S. employers that support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. To view a list of the companies, visit: www.HRC.org/Workplace

ENDA is supported by a broad range of civil rights, religious, civic and professional organizations, including the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, NAACP, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, AFSCME, National Education Association, National Employment Lawyers Association, Anti-Defamation League, Religious Action Center, Unitiarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, American Civil Liberties Union, and many others.

Currently, federal law provides legal protection against employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability, but not sexual orientation or gender identity. In 29 states across America, it is still legal to fire someone based on his or her sexual orientation, and in 38 states, it is still legal to fire someone for being transgender.

In 2007, the House passed a version of ENDA that protected on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender identity, on a vote of 235 to 184.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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