Legislation that could protect LGBT Americans from discrimination in the workplace has been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate today.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would prohibit public and private employers, employment agencies, and labor unions from using sexual orientation or gender identity as a basis for employment decisions such as hiring, firing, promotion, or compensation. Although race, color, national origin, and religion are currently protected classes from employment discrimination, there is no federal law that protects LGBT individuals.
It remains legal in 29 states to discriminate based on sexual orientation and in 34 states to do so based on gender identity or expression.
The law would provide a much needed shield to the LGBT community who are at risk of experiencing routine discrimination and hostility in the workplace. A 2011 study published in The American Journal of Sociology found that openly gay individuals are 40% less likely to be granted an interview compared to their heterosexual counterparts. The findings were particularly strong in the south and midwestern parts of the country and with employers seeking stereotypically masculine traits.
A 2013 study to be published in the scientific journal Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, found that gay and lesbian job applicants receive much more helpful and less hostile responses from employers in cities that provided legal protection. Therefore, it seems that more legal protection means less discrimination and vice versa.
Currently, 40 senators and 171 representatives are sponsoring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, with more expected to sign on. However, it remains unclear whether or not the bill will become National law. ENDA has been introduced in Congress every year since 1994, but to no avail.
429Magazine contacted the office of Representative Eric Johnson of the Texas House of Representatives whose state version of the bill is currently up for vote. Chief of Staff Juan Ayala told 429Magazine, “US Senate Democrats might pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but the problem is House Republicans who have the ability to prevent passage by keeping the bill from getting a vote in the House of Representatives.”
Ayala said Rep. Johnson supports federal protection for LGBT individuals because discrimination in the workplace is fundamentally wrong and all human beings should have the right to work. “You shouldn’t have to live in the shadows of unemployment or fear losing your job because of who you are in the workplace,” he added.