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Pass Workplace Protections For LGBT

Kevin Cheberenchick |
August 1, 2013 | 7:11 p.m. PDT


Congress should pass ENDA. (Wolfgang Sauber, Wikimedia Commons)
Congress should pass ENDA. (Wolfgang Sauber, Wikimedia Commons)
Although the repeal of part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a great thing, it is still in the best interest of many LGBTs to stay closeted due to the large amount of workplace discrimination hindering their future success.

LGBT individuals comprise a significant part of the American labor force. Everyday, they go to work to make an honest living to support themselves and their families and help our economy grow along the way. However, far too many go to work with the fear that they will lose their job based on aspects that have nothing to do with their work performance and ability.

Federal law currently bans employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion, age, national origin, and disability, but not sexual orientation or gender identity. Employers and coworkers can fire, deny a promotion, or harass the majority of Americans solely for being LGBT. As high as 43 percent of gay and transgender workers have experienced some form of discrimination on the job and as high as 41 percent were verbally or physically abused or had their workplace vandalized.

The solution to this inhumane problem is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Introduced in the 113th Congress by members of both parties and approved in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, ENDA would provide basic protections against workplace discrimination based on orientation or gender identity. It would allow all Americans basic employment protection from discrimination based on irrational prejudice. The well-written bill explicitly prohibits preferential treatment and quotas and does not permit disparate impact suits. In addition, it exempts religious organizations, the military and small businesses.

Ignoring ENDA violates core American values of fairness and equality. ENDA only extends current fair employment practices and not any special rights. Although, many Fortune 500 companies support LGBT workplace equality, it is still necessary for ENDA to provide its legal and contractually binding framework.

Conversely, some (although few in number) complain about its possible passage. They are worried about unnecessary lawsuits. However, to call a lawsuit over workplace discrimination unnecessary is upsetting. Data shows that LGBT lawsuits should not be more numerous than lawsuits from any other discriminated minorities.

The real value of the law is in prevention. ENDA would stop problems before they occur rather than creating a flood of lawsuits. Its passage will cause lawyers to counsel employers that it is not acceptable to discriminate against LGBT employees. And human resources departments will start making changes.

The fundamental right to work requires a lack of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Congress cannot tell one segment of Americans that they are not entitled to the same level of job security as others simply because of whom they love. While both issues are important, the focus of LGBT rights groups should be on the passage of ENDA, instead of on marriage equality.


Reach Contributor Kevin Cheberenchick here.



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