Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Legislative Summary: Workplace Discrimination
Learn about important legislation to end employment discrimination against the LGBT community.

Currently, no federal law prevents workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In 30 states, it is legal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and in 38 states, it is legal to do so on the basis of gender identity. In those states, it is legal to fire, refuse to hire, demote or fail to promote LGBT employees solely on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, regardless of their qualifications, length of employment, dedication and other factors. This fear drives many LGBT citizens to hide their identities and families out of fear of losing their jobs, being passed over for a promotion and facing daily harassment. Only 20 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin,) and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

ENDA: The Employment Non-Discrimination Act
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would expand federal employment non-discrimination law by adding sexual orientation to the protected classes of national origin, race, religion, disability and gender. These provisions would make it illegal for public and private employers, employment agencies and labor unions to use employees' real or perceived sexual orientation as the basis for employment decisions such as hiring, firing, promotion, demotion and compensation.

ENDA would not apply to religious organizations, the military or businesses with fewer than 15 employees. Furthermore, the bill does not provide for affirmative action or quotas, does not require employers to offer benefits to the same-sex partners of employees, and would not apply retroactively. ENDA is supported not only by advocates in the civil rights and LGBT community, but also by business leaders who believe that forcing employees to hide their identities is detrimental to the office dynamic and prevents gay employees from fully committing themselves to their work. Although some businesses have established their own non-discrimination policies, these leaders argue that federal policy is necessary.

In the 110th Congress, ENDA was passed in November 2007 by a vote of 235-184. Unfortunately, the bill was not introduced in the Senate. In the 111th Congress, the bill has been introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Barney Drank (D-MA). The Union for Reform Judaism continues to support efforts to ensure that this basic protection of civil rights is provided to all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. Write to your Members of Congress now to ask them to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

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