Gay and transgender individuals continue to face widespread discrimination in the workplace. Studies show that anywhere from 15 percent to 43 percent of gay people have experienced some form of discrimination and harassment at the workplace. Moreover, a staggering 90 percent of transgender workers report some form of harassment or mistreatment on the job. These workplace abuses pose a real and immediate threat to the economic security of gay and transgender workers. Congress should work quickly to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, to ensure that all Americans are judged in the workplace based on their skills, qualifications, and the quality of their work.
Right now, too many of our country’s gay and transgender workers are being judged on their sexual orientation and gender identity—factors that have no impact on how well a person performs their job. Under federal law it is still legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender. Where state or local laws exist, gay and transgender workers file discrimination complaints at comparable rates and in some case higher rates than other protected classes such as gender and race. But Congress has thus far failed to incorporate gay and transgender workers into employment laws that shield these and other groups from workplace discrimination nationwide.
Lawmakers in both chambers of the 112th Congress recently introduced ENDA, which would finally bring full workplace protections to nearly all of our nation’s workforce. If passed, gay and transgender workers would have similar protections that were afforded to other minority groups with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. And while comprehensive in scope, ENDA explicitly exempts religious organizations and small businesses with less than 15 employees, prohibits preferential treatment for gay and transgender workers, and does not require employers to offer domestic partner benefits to employees’ same-sex partners.
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