The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is a critical piece of legislation that aims to prevent workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. ENDA has been introduced in every session of Congress – except once – since 1994, and almost two decades later, a federal law that protects the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community still does not exist. Last month, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee voted 15-7 to advance ENDA to the full Senate floor this fall. This could be the first time ENDA has received a full Senate vote since 1996.
Far too often, LGBT workers are not hired, not promoted, or, in worst cases, fired from their jobs solely due to their sexual orientation and gender identity, and not based on employment qualifications. If passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama, ENDA would protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination, and it could start to repair the “broken bargain” of discrimination, fewer benefits, and more taxes that LGBT workers experience daily.
Here are five LGBT workers who have suffered from employer bias, sexual harassment, and discrimination in hiring/firing:
- Mia Macy explains how anti-transgender discrimination caused her to lose a job for which she was fully qualified:
- Sam Hall discusses the verbal and physical harassment he experienced when coworkers discovered he was gay:
- Kylar Broadus recounts the unreasonable demands from his employer immediately after he began transitioning from female to male:
- Kimya Afi Ayodele describes the inappropriate questions her interviewer asked about her relationship status and how she was explicitly fired because she was lesbian:
- Brooke Waits enlightens Members of Congress how she went from being a highly-praised employee to out of a job on the basis of sexual orientation:
These LGBT workers were five of many who have been discriminated against solely based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and not on factors related to job performance.
ENDA is about making the workplace a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for hardworking Americans. The law would simply extend protections to LGBT workers that already apply to discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There is no special treatment involved in fixing the broken bargain that fuels inequality for LGBT workers.
Employees should be judged on their qualifications and the merits of their work, rather on their sexual orientation and gender identity. As the stories of these five employees illustrate, workplace discrimination is a real problem that hurts real people and has no place in society. Like other workers, LGBT workers deserve the chance to thrive in a workplace and not be subjected to harassment, bias, and other forms of discrimination. For this reason, Congress should pass ENDA to provide workplace protections to LGBT workers and to end the broken bargain that many encounter every day.
Preston Mitchum is a Policy Analyst for LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress.