Late yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Senate voted to move forward on discussion and debate on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, would forbid employers with more than fifteen employees from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender entity. This same bill was up for debate in the Senate and came to a full vote in 1996 at which time it lost by one vote.
If ENDA becomes law, sexual orientation and gender identity will be added to the list of protected classes currently protected by Title VII. ENDA would also maintain the current religious exemptions set out in Title VII. Although a large number of Americans believe employers are already prohibited by law from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, only 21 states and the District of Columbia have, in fact, protected those classes. In addition, a number of local governments and municipalities, both in Kentucky and across the nation, have chosen to protect those classes of people in one way or another. It is unclear whether this bill will pass the Senate and move to the House for consideration, but if it does the impact will be significant.
Martha is an associate at Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, PLLC and concentrates her practice in the areas of employment law, immigration law, education law and governmental law. She regularly works with employers, public entities and K-12 and higher education institutions defending them against claims of EEOC, sex, race and age discrimination, wrongful termination and Civil Rights violations.