Friday, November 6, 2009

ENDA Updates

Yesterday, President Obama said that he fully supports an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)!

According to this article, the Obama Administration Thursday endorsed full-scale protections for gay and transgender workers from job discrimination, giving a major boost to legislation written by Sen. Jeff Merkley that is based on similar protections offered in Oregon.

"No American should be denied a job or the opportunity to earn promotions, pay raises and other benefits of employment because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identify, which have no bearing on work performance,'' Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights told a Senate panel.

"No one should be fired because he or she is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Period,'' Perez told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He added: ``This is a top legislative priority for the Obama administration.''

The bill offered by Merkley is the latest iteration of a legislation originally offered in 1994 by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Merkley's bill is largely patterned after one he helped pass in Oregon in 2007 that provides protections against job discrimination.

It would prohibit employers, employment agencies and labor organizations from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against those employed or seeking employment, on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. Such protections are already in place prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability.

In an op-ed yesterday, Jaime Grant, Policy Institute Director at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said,

"So as unemployment rates continue to climb, workplace fairness has a special resonance among Americans struggling to keep their homes and their dignity. While this sense of vulnerability is new to many, it is not for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, many of whom have absolutely no protection from discrimination and can be fired from their jobs arbitrarily, on the basis of sheer bias rather than work performance. Jobs and workplace fairness are critical to our country’s future, and people should not be denied their livelihoods because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. As the nation’s political leaders consider how to get America back on solid economic footing and its people back to work, the passage and enactment of ENDA must be part of that solution.