Employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers is pervasive and harmful. It violates core American values of fairness and equality by discriminating against qualified individuals based on characteristics unrelated to the job.
Congress needs to act to ensure that LGBT individuals have the same workplace protections that apply based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability. The reality remains that it is legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation in 29 states. Those who are transgender can be fired or denied employment solely based on their gender identity in 33 states. Such numbers demonstrate the need for the federal government to expand employment non-discrimination protections to LGBT workers.
This view is shared by the overwhelming majority of the American public, including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and independents. A 2011 poll found that 73 percent of likely voters support protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment. In addition, many large and small businesses – including many federal contractors – have already taken these steps on their own, and report that they have very few or no costs and actually reap longer-term benefits to their bottom lines (e.g. recruiting the best and brightest, minimizing turnover costs, increasing productivity, appeal to new markets, etc.).
While passage of ENDA is critical for LGBT people across the country, the legislation’s current, sweeping religious exemption must be narrowed. ENDA’s religious exemption could provide religiously affiliated organizations – far beyond houses of worship – with a blank check to engage in employment discrimination against LGBT people. Religious liberty guarantees use the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs, unless those actions harm others or result in discrimination. ENDA’s religious exemption essentially says that LGBT discrimination is different – more legitimate – than discrimination against individuals based on their race or sex.
ACLU Submits Evidence to House Committee
On September 23, the ACLU's LGBT Project submitted a letter to the House Committee on Education and Labor, providing evidence of "scores of instances in which both States and municipalities across the country have engaged in unconstitutional discrimination against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity." Evidence of this kind of discrimination is important to include in the Congressional Record, to ensure that state and local government employees are protected under ENDA.
- ACLU Letter to House Education and Labor Committee on ENDA and Sovereign Immunity
- ACLU Letter to House Education and Labor Committee on ENDA and Sovereign Immunity (Enclosure Part 2)
- ACLU Letter to House Education and Labor Committee on ENDA and Sovereign Immunity (Enclosure Part 3)
UPDATE: House Hearing for ENDA
On September 23, the House Education and Labor Committee conducted a hearing on ENDA, which now has the bipartisan support of 178 members of the House of Representatives. At the hearing, it became apparent that momentum is clearly on our side. Acting Head of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Stuart Ishimaru, testified on behalf of the Obama administration and stated that —
It is a privilege to represent the Obama Administration and the EEOC at the first hearing this Congress to consider ENDA, to voice the Administration's strong support for legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This legislation will provide sorely needed and long overdue federal protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, who unfortunately still face widespread employment discrimination.
Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), one of just three openly gay Members of Congress, spoke with pride about how Wisconsin was the first state, in 1982, to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Additionally, in her testimony in support of ENDA, she specifically cited the ACLU's 2007 report entitled "Working in the Shadows: Ending Employment Discrimination for LGBT Americans."
This ACLU-issued report urges Congress to pass ENDA, using the stories of workers from across the country who have experienced workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to make the case for passage of the bill.
» Click here to download the PDF.
The ACLU is part of a bipartisan campaign – Americans for Workplace Opportunity – that formed this summer to take advantage of a historic opportunity to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act 19 years after its first introduction. The steering committee of Americans for Workplace Opportunity is a diverse and bipartisan group of organizations composed of: American Civil Liberties Union, American Federation of Teachers, American Unity Fund, Human Rights Campaign, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and the Service Employees International Union. Dozens of other organizations that support ENDA will also be involved in the coalition.
There is no better example of the reason we need a transgender-inclusive ENDA than Diane Schroer, a former Airborne Ranger qualified Special Forces officer. Schroer retired after 25 years of distinguished service in the Army, and began taking steps to transition from male to female shortly thereafter. She was offered a job as a terrorism research analyst at the Library of Congress, but the offer was rescinded when she told her future supervisor that she was undergoing gender transition. The ACLU is now representing her in a Title VII sex discrimination lawsuit.
Listen to LGBT Project Director Matt Coles's podcast about how you can help end LGBT discrimination on the job.
On September 5, 2007, the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on ENDA. Watch the hearing here, in a series of ten videos.
» Click here to watch the hearing