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DTCI: An updated to Employment Non-discriminaiton Act

Amy S. , Takeia R. Johnson
March 3, 2010
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ENDA has stalled in Congress since it was first introduced in 1994. The current version of the bill was originally introduced in the summer of 2009 by U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) (H.R. 2981, H.R. 3017, S. 1584). The House Education and Labor Committee held a full committee hearing on the bill in September 2009, and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions ('HELP") held a hearing on ENDA in November 2009. The bills are still pending.

Protection Offered by Pending ENDA of 2009

While some transgender plaintiffs have been successful in asserting claims for gender discrimination based upon nonconformity to certain gender stereotypes, ENDA supporters assert that the new law will provide a more defined route for claiming employment discrimination. ENDA applies to employers with 15 or more employees for each working day in at least 20 weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. It excludes bona fide membership clubs, religious organizations, and the armed forces. It does not affect "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." ENDA prohibits employers from using an individual's sexual orientation and gender identity, actual or perceived, in all aspects of employment, including hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, and terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.

Under the proposed law, association discrimination is also prohibited. Therefore, an employer could not take an adverse employment action based on the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of a person with whom the individual associates or has associated. Retaliation is also unlawful. While disparate treatment claims are actionable, disparate impact claims are not, which is a significant departure from Title VII. Further, employers are expressly prohibited from using preferential treatment and quotas based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. ENDA does not require that employers provide benefits to samesex partners, and it does not apply retroactively. ENDA does not allow the EEOC to collect statistics on sexual orientation or gender identity or compel employers to collect such statistics.

ENDA also clarifies what actions employers may take in instituting dress code and grooming policies. Employers may still require employees to follow reasonable dress or grooming standards as long as persons who have undergone gender transition before the time of employment, or persons who have notified employers that they have undergone or are currently undergoing gender transition, are permitted to adhere to the same dress code and grooming standard for the gender the employee has transitioned to, or is transitioning to.

Current State and Federal Coverage of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Claims

Currently, 21 states, including Connecticut, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Maryland, prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Another 12 states, including Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, Washington, Rhode Island, Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia, prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Indiana does not recognize a cause of action for employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. Ind. Code § 22-9-1 et seq. The Indiana Civil Rights Law provides protection against discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, or ancestry. Id.

Marion County and Monroe County, however, include sexual orientation and gender identity among a list of classes to be protected from discrimination in employment. The following Indiana counties and cities prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in private and public employment but do not prohibit gender identity discrimination: Tippecanoe County, and the cities of Bloomington, Fort Wayne, Lafayette, Michigan City, Terre Haute, West Lafayette, and South Bend.

With the patchwork of state laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender discrimination, ENDA would explicitly provide an employment discrimination cause of action to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

The Seventh Circuit's treatment of gender discrimination claims brought by transsexual individuals is representative of several other circuits that have addressed the issue. The court held in Ulane v. E. Airlines, Inc., that Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination means only that it is "unlawful to discriminate against women because they are women and men because they are men." 742 F.2d 1081, 1086 (7th Cir. 1984). Where a plaintiff can show only that he or she was discriminated against as a transsexual, and not as a man or a woman, Title VII provides no protection. Other circuits holding that transsexuals are not a protected class under Title VII include the Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits. See Sommers v. Budget Mktg., Inc., 667 F.2d 748, 749-50 (8th Cir. 1982); Holloway v. Arthur Andersen & Co., 566 F.2d 659, 662-62 (9th Cir. 1977); and Etsitty v. Utah Transit Authority, 502 F.3d 1215 (10th Cir. 2007).

LGBT individuals, similar to heterosexual individuals, may still bring "gender stereotyping" claims under Title VII as a basis for arguing gender discrimination claims if they can present sufficient evidence to prove that harassment or discrimination occurred "because of sex" and not solely because of sexual orientation. See Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 251 (1989) (holding that discrimination against an employee for her failure to conform to socially defined gender norms was illegal under Title VII). Successful claims of gender discrimination have generally proven elusive for lesbian, gay, and bisexual ("LGB") plaintiffs because courts find that these plaintiffs suffered discrimination because of their sexual orientation, not because of their gender. Therefore, transgender plaintiffs have seen a bit more success than LGB plaintiffs under Title VII.

Following Price Waterhouse, courts have been more willing to grant transgender individuals protection under Title VII because of their nonconformance with socially defined gender roles. Tanya A. De Vos, Tenth Annual Review of Gender and Sexuality Law: Employment Law Chapter: Sexuality and Transgender Issues in Employment Law, 10 Geo. J. Gender & L. 599, 606 (2009); See also Spearman v. Ford Motor Co., 213 F.3d 1080, 1085 (7th Cir. 2000) (noting that "sex stereotyping may constitute evidence of sex discrimination"); and Schwenk v. Hartford, 204 F.3d 1187, 1202 (9th Cir. 2000) (noting that Title VII prohibits "discrimination because one fails to act in the way expected of a man or woman").

In Schroer v. Billington, the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, in granting relief to a transgender plaintiff who sued for discrimination in violation of Title VII because of sex, held that the findings in Ulane, Holloway, and Etsitty are "no longer a tenable approach to statutory construction." Schroer, 577 F. Supp. 2d 293, 307 (D.D.C. 2008). The district court held that the "[l]ibrary's refusal to hire Schroer after being advised that she planned to change her anatomical sex by undergoing sex reassignment surgery was literally discrimination 'because of ... sex.'" Id. at 308. The court further stated:

In refusing to hire Schroer because of her appearance and background did not comport with the decisionmaker's sex stereotypes about how men and women should act and appear, and in response to Schroer's decision to transition, legally, culturally, and physically, from male to female, the Library of Congress violated Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination.

Id.

Opposing Viewpoints

Supporters of ENDA maintain it is the logical addition to other federal civil rights legislation following the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Those supporters also point to a civil rights law that was recently passed by Congress. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act ("HCPA") (P.L. 111-84), which President Obama signed into law on October 28, 2009, gives the Department of Justice the power to investigate and prosecute biasmotivated violence by providing the DOJ with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where the perpetrator has selected a victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gen- der identity, or disability.

ENDA opponents argue that it will impose additional burdens upon employers, including religious organizations such as those comprising the National Religious Broadcasters, and that there will be an influx of frivolous employment discrimination lawsuits filed. These opponents argued before the Senate HELP committee that the following uncertainties were present in the current text of ENDA: whether Title VII and ENDA will provide duplicate causes of action for sex stereotyping; how disparate impact claims will be defined under ENDA; whether ENDA was intended to provide additional attorneys' fees above those available under Title VII; when an employer's affirmative obligations for providing shared facilities and applying dress and grooming codes are triggered and whether "shared facilities" include restrooms; and whether employers are required to modify existing facilities.

Practical Considerations

Should this law pass, employers should not necessarily anticipate a significant increase in the number of employment discrimination charges filed. States that have adopted laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity have shown only slight increases in these types of discrimination charges. For instance, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan reported during her November 5, 2009, testimony before the Senate HELP committee that since Illinois adopted its sexual orientation and gender identity inclusive antidiscrimination policy in 2006, only 2.9 percent of the total employment discrimination charges filed were based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This is less than the ten percent of sexual orientation or gender identity employment discrimination charges the Illinois Department of Human Rights expected to be filed upon enactment of the new policy. If signed into law, employers should expect to revise their nondiscrimination policies and their training policies to comply with the provisions of ENDA. Finally, the EEOC will likely issue regulations to assist employers with compliance.
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  1. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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