ENDA, which would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity nationally, will come up for a hearing before the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee June 12.
The hearing was announced a day after a push from a bipartisan group of senators that included Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
Casey, along with Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), issued a letter May 9 to the committee, calling for a hearing.
“Employment discrimination has profound effects on the wages, job opportunities, productivity and health of LGBT workers,” they wrote. “ENDA takes a balanced approach to ending workplace discrimination against the LGBT community.”
Merkley introduced the legislation last April, which now has 41 cosponsors. A House companion bill spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has not moved out of committee.
Some version of ENDA has been introduced in Congress in every session since 1994 except one. The House approved a version that did not include protections for transgender individuals in 2007 but it failed to move forward in the Senate.
If approved, ENDA would prohibit all employers with 15 or more staffers from discriminating against LGBTs in hiring, firing and promotion, although religious organizations are exempted.
The Casey coalition noted that “while some states prohibit public and private employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, recent studies have found evidence of continued widespread employment discrimination against LGBT people. Sadly, it is still legal for businesses in many states to fire someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Pennsylvania is one of the states that permits LGBT employment discrimination, as an effort to instate a statewide ENDA has failed to advance for a number of years.
In announcing the hearing, HELP committee chair Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said that “every American deserves an equal opportunity to earn a good living, judged by their talent, ability and qualifications, free from discrimination. Workplace discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity is reprehensible and has no place in our nation.”
A witness list for the hearing has not yet been announced. The committee held a hearing on the bill in 2009 but took no action on the measure.
Jen Colletta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.