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Federal Protections May Be Coming For LGBT Workers

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was recently introduced in the U.S. Congress. The Act would protect those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender from employment discrimination based on their gender or sexual identity.

Specifically, employers would be prohibited from hiring, firing and promotion decisions based on an employee's or applicant's sexual orientation. While California has protections for LGBT workers, 29 other states still allow a person to legally be fired for being gay and 34 others allow an employer to fire an employee who is transgender.

Legislation similar to ENDA has been pursued, and fought against, for years at the federal level. But, supporters hope that this Congress will be the one to finally put LGBT employees on the same level as straight employees, removing their gender identity and sexual orientation from being considered in the workplace.

If passed, ENDA would prohibit employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against LGBT employees. Religious employers would be exempted from the prohibitions in a manner similar to the exemptions in the Civil Rights Act.

In evaluating the bill, the Congressional Budget Office assumes, arguably correctly, that LGBT discrimination is occurring in the workplace across the country. Once extended employment protections from the federal government that would give LGBT employees the opportunity to fight back against employment discrimination, one estimate cited up to almost a 10 percent increase in complaints of discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Office (EEOC).

Source: MSNBC, "The fight for ENDA: Think you can't be fired for being gay? Think again," April 25, 2013

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