Senate Takes up Employment Non-Discrimination Act

November 6, 2013

pic-senate-floorThe Senate this week is debating the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), S. 815, which would prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees. While the bill does include language that would exempt churches and other religious-based entities from complying, opponents claim the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect nonprofits or private businesses on the basis of religious beliefs.

Among the amendments likely to get floor time is one offered by Sens. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) which would expand how the bill defines religious employers and prevent state and municipal governments from retaliating against religious employers who do not employ LGBT individuals.

Another amendment , offered by Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) would implement “right to work” provisions by overturning an existing federal law that allows union membership to be required as a condition of employment.

If passed, ENDA would put LGBT workers on-par with other federal workplace protections based on race, religion, gender, age and disability. Additionally, employers found guilty could be subject to giving the worker in question the job or promotion they were denied, as well as give back-pay and face litigation fees and other compensatory damages.

Today, just 22 states, including the District of Columbia, have workplace discrimination rules on the books for LGBT workers.

The Senate is expected to pass ENDA with just a handful of Republicans voting in the affirmative. The House, however is a different story with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) expressing his opposition to the bill making a floor vote very unlikely.