Just in time for Pride Month, Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 (ENDA) earlier this week. If passed, ENDA would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It would also prohibit employers retaliation against employees who oppose such discrimination who participate in any investigation or proceeding under ENDA. To read more about ENDA, check out this article from the Human Rights Campaign.
ENDA would be the first federal law prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of, among other things, sex; it does not explicitly prohibit sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination). Several states already have similar protections in place, but ENDA would apply nationwide. ENDA would exempt from its coverage small businesses (those with less than 15 employees), religious organizations, and the armed forces.
This isn’t ENDA’s first trip through Congress; versions of the bill have been introduced in almost every Congress since 1994. However, with a strong Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, a Democratic President who is feeling the heat from the GLBTQ community, and the gay rights movement riding a wave of successes in state legislatures, 2009 may well be the year ENDA becomes law.
Employers whose policies and handbooks don’t already address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity should consider a revision. For an example of how one company has addressed such discrimination, click here to read IBM’s anti-discrimination policy. Click here for a state-by-state analysis of existing sexual orientation discrimination laws;