Boulder, CO– Unless the House passes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, it will still be legal to discriminate against and fire LBGT persons in the majority of states. While the Senate voted last week to pass EDNA which will add workplace protections for LBGT persons, the House has vowed to block the legislation and conservatives are critical of the law.
Most American workers are protected from workplace abuses and have a legal recourse if they are discriminated against or harassed for their race, gender or religious beliefs. But those protections are not extended to lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgendered people simply because of their sexual orientation, something they have no control over. They can be fired, harassed or discriminated against and have little legal recourse unless they live in a state that has passed laws expressly protecting them from a hostile work environment.
Sexual harassment among LBGT people is significant issue and it should be addressed by lawmakers. The Center for American Progress estimates that between 15 to 43 percent of gay and lesbian persons have experienced harassment and discrimination based on their sexuality. The center also estimates that 90 percent of transgendered people have experienced some sort of harassment or discrimination. And according to Policy Mic, 8 to 17 percent of gay and lesbian persons report being denied a job or fired simply because of their orientation.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is important because only 21 states, including Colorado and D.C. have laws which prevent coworkers and supervisors from harassing people based on the sexual orientation. In the 29 states that have not passed non-discrimination legislation, LBGT people have no course of action they can take if they are harassed or discriminated against, unlike other individuals who can sue their employers if their employer violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It is the litigation side of the issue that House Republicans criticize and the reason Speaker Boehner says he won’t allow the bill to the floor for a vote despite it have strong bipartisan support and 70 percent of the American Population. Their argument is that the law would hurt small businesses by exposes them to court and litigation costs.
They believe the legislation will lead to frivolous litigation, even though there are no solid findings for their beliefs. In Colorado, only 35 out 516 cases resulted from sexuality-based discrimination with only one case filed by a transgendered person, Policy Mic reported. Data from California and other states have similarly low rates of employment discrimination and sexual harassment litigation.
Conservatives also oppose EDNA because they believe that sexuality and gender identity are a choice unlike race and gender.
EDNA has gone largely ignored by Congress for close to 17 years, and with some slight changes, primarily granting a religious exemption, Senate Democrats have managed to garner some Conservative support. The LBGT community has made great strides in obtaining more civil rights, but being free from harassment and discrimination in the work place is still not a reality as it should be.