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Column: ENDA would protect sexual orientation, gender identity

August 13, 2014
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By Stephanie L. Cassman and Theresa R. Parish

With same-sex marriage gaining momentum in Indiana and across the nation, it is no surprise that protection from discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity is most likely on the horizon. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, but is silent with respect to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Advocates have been working to fill this void with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. ENDA has been introduced in nearly every congressional session since 1994, but it has been unsuccessful in passing for various reasons, most of which are considered political.

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For purposes of ENDA, “sexual orientation” means homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality, and “gender identity” means “the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.” ENDA would prohibit employers from using sexual orientation or gender identity when making employment decisions relating to hiring, discharging, promoting or compensation. It would also be unlawful for employers to limit, segregate or classify employees or applicants based on sexual orientation or gender identity in any way that would have an adverse effect on employment. Further, ENDA would prohibit preferential treatment or the implementation of quotas on the basis of such actual or perceived orientation or identity. Similar to Title VII, ENDA would prohibit retaliation against employees who oppose such discriminatory practices. The damages available would be the same as under Title VII, including injunctive relief, back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney fees.

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ENDA would allow employers to maintain their current dress codes and grooming policies. However, employers would be required to permit an employee who has undergone gender transition to follow the same dress and grooming policies that apply to the gender to which the employee has transitioned or is in the process of transitioning. ENDA would not require employers to construct new or additional facilities, such as bathrooms.

Despite these protections, there would be limitations under ENDA. Similar to Title VII, ENDA would not apply to employers with fewer than 15 employees. ENDA also contains an exemption for corporations, associations, educational institutions or institutions of learning, or societies that are exempt from the religious discrimination provisions of Title VII.

ENDA certainly has hope for becoming law as the regulatory, social and political environments are steadily moving toward providing rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Several states have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in both the private and public workplaces. Indiana only prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the public workplace. The EEOC has held that discrimination against an individual because the person is transgender is discrimination because of sex and therefore is provided protection under Title VII. See Macy v. Department of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0120120821 (April 20, 2012). The EEOC has also found that claims by lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals alleging sex stereotyping is a valid claim under Title VII. See Veretto v. U.S. Postal Service, EEOC Appeal No. 0120110873 (July 1, 2011); Castello v. U.S. Postal Service, EEOC Request No. 0520110649 (Dec. 20, 2011). Almost 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies, which collectively employ nearly 25 million people, have implemented policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, and over 50 percent of those companies also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Most recently, on July 21, President Barack Obama signed an executive order making it illegal for federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While the executive order only governs the federal contracting community, protection is afforded to an estimated 28 million workers, which is approximately one-fifth of the nation’s workforce.

It sends a clear message to all employers that change is on the way.•

Stephanie L. Cassman, equity partner, and Theresa R. Parish, associate, practice employment law at Lewis Wagner LLP. They can be reached at scassman@lewiswagner.com and tparish@lewiswagner.com. The opinions expressed are those of the authors.   
 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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